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South Korea swears in first female president

Taking the oath of office, Park Geun-Hye called on the regime in North Korea to “abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay”.

South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye at her inauguration ceremony.
South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye at her inauguration ceremony.
Image: (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

PARK GEUN-HYE became South Korea’s first female president today, vowing zero tolerance with North Korean provocation and demanding Pyongyang “abandon its nuclear ambitions” immediately.

As leader of Asia’s fourth-largest economy, Park, the 61-year-old daughter of late military strongman Park Chung-Hee, faces challenges of slowing growth and soaring welfare costs in one of the world’s most rapidly ageing societies.

Taking the oath of office less than two weeks after North Korea carried out its third nuclear test, Park called on the regime in Pyongyang to “abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay” and rejoin the international community.

“I will not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation,” Park said, while promising to pursue the trust-building policy with Pyongyang that she had promised in her campaign.

South Korean rapper PSY performs before the inauguration ceremony of President Park Geun-hye at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Observers say her options will be limited by the international outcry over the North’s 12 February nuclear test, which has emboldened the hawks in her ruling conservative party who oppose closer engagement.

There was no immediate reaction from Pyongyang, but an editorial today in the ruling Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun carried a clear message for Park to avoid the “confrontational” policies of her predecessor Lee Myung-Bak.

As South Korea’s first female president, Park leads a country that is ranked below the likes of Suriname and the United Arab Emirates in gender equality.

The two-and-a-half hour inauguration ceremony, held on a chilly and cloudy morning, included a musical warm-up concert that saw Korean rapper Psy perform his global hit “Gangnam Style”.

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Timeline: North Korean rocket launches and nuclear tests >

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