UK & World News

  • 25 February 2013, 11:33

South Korea's First Female President Sworn In

Park Geun-Hye has become South Korea's first female president, demanding North Korea "abandon its nuclear ambitions" immediately at her inauguration.

Taking the oath of office less than two weeks after Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test, Ms Park - the daughter of late military strongman Park Chung-Hee - called on the regime to rejoin the global community.

"North Korea's recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people, and there should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself," she said.

"I will not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation.

"I will move forward step by step on the basis of credible deterrence."

The mood of the two-and-a-half hour ceremony in a chilly Seoul was lightened when pop sensationPsy starred in a musical warm-up.

He performed his global hit Gangnam Style, and children and the elderly alike joined him as he did the horse-riding dance he made famous in the song's video.

Ms Park's election in December was an important moment for women in South Korea, who on average earn nearly 40% less than men.

The 61-year-old takes office a little more than 50 years after her father, a vehement anti-communist, seized power in a military coup.

Park Chung-Hee ruled with an iron fist for the next 18 years until his assassination.

He remains a divisive figure - credited with dragging the country out of poverty but reviled for his regime's human rights abuses.

At 22, Ms Park cut short her studies in Paris to return to Seoul and act as the country's first lady after an assassin targeting her father instead killed her mother.

Ms Park left the presidential Blue House five years later, in 1979, after her father was shot and killed by his spy chief during a drinking party.

Becoming the leader of Asia's fourth-largest economy, Ms Park faces challenges of slowing growth and soaring welfare costs.

The bulk of Ms Park's inauguration speech focused on the economy, and included commitments to job creation and expanded welfare, as well as the promise of a miracle.

South Korea's extraordinary economic revival from the rubble of the 1950-53 Korean War - known as the "Miracle on the Han" - has faltered in recent years, with key export markets hit by the global downturn.

Ms Park promised another miracle, saying her administration would build a new "creative economy" that would move beyond the country's traditional manufacturing base.

"At the very heart of a creative economy lie science and technology and the IT industry, areas that I have earmarked as key priorities," she said.

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