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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.

The Flying Greek

Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid