News / Asia

South Korea's Park Seeks Economic Change, Dialogue With North

South Korea's new president, Park Geun-Hye, arrives for an official dinner at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Feb. 25, 2013.
South Korea's new president, Park Geun-Hye, arrives for an official dinner at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Feb. 25, 2013.
South Korea's new conservative president, Park Geun-hye, has used her inaugural address to send a mixed message to Pyongyang about her approach to dealing with long-running tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Speaking at the National Assembly in Seoul Monday, she demanded that the North "abandon" a nuclear weapons program that included a third nuclear test earlier this month.  Park warned that she will "not tolerate any action" that threatens the lives and security of her people.

But Park also promised to "build trust" between the two Koreas as part of what she called a "step-by-step" approach on the basis of "credible deterrence." She was elected in December partly on a pledge to renew engagement with the North after the tough stance of her conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak.

Interpreting Park's message

Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Park is likely to focus her initial efforts on working with the international community to impose sanctions on Pyongyang for its February 12 nuclear test.

The United States and its allies have called for a United Nations Security Council resolution that would tighten penalties already faced by North Korea for conducting nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Park Geun-hye:

  • Born in 1952, daughter of former president Park Chung-hee
  • Studied engineering
  • Served as de-facto first lady after her mother was killed
  • Elected to the National Assembly in 1998
  • First launched presidential bid in 2007
But, Seoul National University professor Jang Yong-Seok said Park also is sending a signal to Pyongyang that a path for dialogue is open, provided that it refrains from further perceived provocations.

Korea analyst Malcolm Cook of Australia's Flinders University said the new South Korean leader is seeking a balanced approach.

"She clearly is trying to find a middle way between [former liberal president] Roh Moo-hyun's 'Sunshine Policy' that focused on engagement with North Korea, and her ruling party predecessor who switched to a strong focus on the North Korean military threat," he said.

"Park will try to do both at the same time, with actions by North Korea determining which of those tracks will be the primary one," said Cook.

Yoon Yeon-hong, a woman in her mid-50s who attended the inauguration, expressed hope that the new president will follow such a path.

"We should help the North Korean people, but I don't want President Park to send [humanitarian] aid unconditionally as some former (South Korean) presidents did," she said. "I also hope she will block anything that would help North Korea to make nuclear weapons."

Establishing economic priorities
 
In another part of her address, Park said her government will develop a "creative economy" in which science and technology generate new markets and jobs, rather than just the country's traditional manufacturing sector.

She also emphasized a need for "economic democratization," or policies that help small and medium-sized businesses to "prosper" alongside South Korea's conglomerates, or chaebols.

Cook of Flinders University said the South Korean economy already is moving in the "creative" direction that Park seeks. He said the president may find it tougher, though, to get chaebols to stop what she called "unfair practices" and "misguided habits" that frustrate their smaller competitors.

"Every president of South Korea in the democratic era has made same claim. Chaebols are family-run and extremely powerful actors in the economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of total production.  Previous presidents haven't been very successful at reducing their clout, and I think President Park will find it difficult to be any different."

Hongik University student Choi Jee-hee, who also witnessed the speech, said she hopes the new government will establish a more generous welfare state.

"I came here to see the inauguration and am hoping President Park will keep promises that she made to South Korean citizens," Choi said. "As I am a university student, I want to see her cut high tuition fees and create more jobs."

Park told the crowd that she supports a "tailored welfare" system that "frees citizens from anxieties, allows them to maximize their potential... and contributes to the nation's development."

Gender gap

As South Korea's first elected female leader, Park also has raised hopes among South Korean women for an easing of social inequalities with men, whose salaries tend to be much higher.

Cook said the president's gender, though, was not a major factor in her rise to power. He said Park owes more to her status as the daughter of assassinated president Park Chung-hee, who ruled harshly as a dictator for 18 years, but also lifted South Korea out of poverty in the 1960s and 70s.

"Like many pervious female leaders in Asia, Park's family name and the role her father played in South Korea's economic development certainly favored her more than her gender," he said.

VOA's Korean Service and Victor Beattie in Washington contributed to this report.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs