Park Geun-hye, South Korea's president-elect, makes North a priority


South Korea's president-elect, Park Geun-Hye (R) of ruling New Frontier Party, burns incense as she visits the grave of her father Park Chung-Hee, the country's former dictator, at the National Cemetery in Seoul on December 20, 2012 the day after she won the country's presidential election. South Korea elected its first woman president on December 19, with voters handing the slim but historic victory to conservative candidate Park Geun-Hye, daughter of the country's former military ruler.



South Korean president-elect Park Geun-hye is making national security a top priority, despite the fact that North Korea did not warrant much attention during the election.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said Park pledged on Thursday to tackle the North Korea problem, underscoring the "grave" security situation. She also said she would try to promote reconciliation, cooperation and peace in Northeast Asia based on a "correct perception of history," a remark that Yonhap said might allude to Japan, Korea's former colonial ruler.

GlobalPost's East Asia correspondent Geoffrey Cain provided some context from Seoul:

"With the South Korean economy slowing this year and the income gap high, the economy became the main election issue. The North Korean threat has always been there, and South Koreans just live with it — even though they're not as patient with the hermit state as they were, say, ten years ago. So while North Korea came up as an issue, namely during the Dec. 4 presidential debate on security, it wasn't the prime factor this time around.

"Park Geun-hye's move to declare security a top priority, right after the vote is in, shows that her real side could be coming out. In the past, most president-elects have quickly moved from the center to the right or left, falling back on the status quo (the Constitution only allows one term and they are not competing for a second, so they don't need to appeal to the center as much). Park is going to move to the right in the opening months of her presidency, and that translates into a strong North Korea policy. Still, it will be slightly more relaxed than the policy of the current president, Lee Myung-bak."

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Park said she would find middle ground between the approaches of South Korea's previous presidents — Roh Moo-hyun, who gave the North unconditional aid, and Lee Myung-bak, who treated it as an adversary, said The Washington Post.

Cain also noted that the South Korean media has refrained from mentioning Park's authoritarian father, avoiding using the term "dictator's daughter."

"Many net users blamed the South Korean mainstream media for siding with Park for several months; and especially in their campaign coverages which rarely brought up historical issues," according to GlobalVoices.

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