News / Asia

South Korea Swears in First Woman President

South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye takes an oath during her inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2013.South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye takes an oath during her inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2013.
x
South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye takes an oath during her inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2013.
South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye takes an oath during her inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2013.
South Korea has inaugurated its first female president. She is Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a former president with a controversial legacy.

Before a crowd of 70,000 people, Madame Park Geun-hye, dressed in an olive green coat and wearing a violet-colored scarf, took the oath of office as her country's 11th president since its inception in 1948.

She then saluted as a military band marched and cannons fired to celebrate her inauguration.

Challenges ahead

In her inaugural address, the president called rival Pyongyang's latest nuclear test “a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people” and said North Korea will be “the biggest victim.”

Calling on the North to abandon wasting resources on nuclear and missile development, the new president in Seoul pledged to “move forward, step-by-step, on the basis of credible deterrence to build trust between the South and the North.”

President Park also issued a warning to Pyongyang that she will “not tolerate any action that threatens the lives” of the people and security of the nation.

In the hours before the ceremony, South Korea's military went on a higher state of alert.

Domestic media say air force fighter jets patrolled the skies;  the navy moved warships into the Yellow Sea;  and, the army boosted its guard around the capital - this amid anxiety that North Korea might attempt to carry out a provocation and take the spotlight off the ceremony in Seoul.

Bittersweet

For Madame Park, her inauguration day marks a bittersweet return to the Blue House. She left the official presidential residence as a 22-year-old grieving daughter, dressed in black, on November 21, 1979.

The shadow of her father's legacy looms large as her administration begins.

As the first child of a South Korean president to be elected to the same post, the never-married new leader seeks to dissuade criticism that she is more than just the daughter of a dictator. A five-term lawmaker in her own right, she barely lost a primary contest five years ago to the president she has succeeded, Lee Myung-bak, constitutionally limited to a single term.

In her inaugural address,  President Park looked beyond the peninsula, vowing to strengthen trust with other countries, especially the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

China ties

During the election campaign, she specifically pledged to improve ties with China.

Political analyst Hwang Tae-soon at the Wisdom Center (a think tank in Seoul) sees security concerns keeping South Korea in a tight relationship with its military ally, the United States.

Hwang notes that while president-elect, Madame Park did send her first special envoy to China, not the United States. But he says her selections for foreign and defense ministers, in the wake of the crisis emanating from North Korea's third nuclear test February 12t, indicate she has judged closer communication with Washington more important than balancing ties with Beijing. Thus, Hwang predicts her foreign policy, initially, will not differ that much from the previous administration.

The National Assembly has yet to hold hearings on any of the new president's Cabinet nominees. Thus President Park, for the time being, is governing with the ministers of her predecessor.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid