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First female SKorean president faces NKorea crisis

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From page A5 | February 25, 2013 | 7 Comments

SEOUL, South Korea — Park Geun-hye became South Korea’s first female president Monday, returning to the presidential mansion where she grew up with her dictator father.

Park’s last stint in the Blue House was bookended by tragedy: At 22, she cut short her studies in Paris to return to Seoul and act as President Park Chung-hee’s first lady after an assassin targeting her father instead killed her mother; she left five years later after her father was shot and killed by his spy chief during a drinking party.

As president, Park will face stark divisions both in South Korean society and with rival North Korea, which detonated an underground nuclear device about two weeks ago. South Koreans worry about a growing gap between rich and poor, and there’s pressure for her to live up to her campaign suggestion that she can return the country to the strong economic growth her strong-man father oversaw.

North Korea’s atomic test will also present a challenge to her vow to soften Seoul’s current hard-line approach to its northern rival.

Pyongyang, Washington, Beijing and Tokyo are all watching to see if Park pursues an ambitious engagement policy meant to ease five years of animosity on the divided peninsula or if she sticks with the tough stance of her fellow conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak.

Park’s decision is important because it will likely set the tone of the larger diplomatic approach that Washington and others take in stalled efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Park technically took over as the clock struck midnight. Her swearing-in ceremony later Monday was to be attended by tens of thousands, including dignitaries such as U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso. South Korean superstar PSY, who rose to surprising global fame last year with his song “Gangnam Style,” was set to perform.

Park’s first weeks in office will be complicated by North Korea’s warning of unspecified “second and third measures of greater intensity,” a threat that comes as Washington and others push for tightened U.N. sanctions as punishment for the Feb. 12 atomic test, the North’s third since 2006.

That test is seen as another step toward North Korea’s goal of building a bomb small enough to be mounted on a missile that can hit the United States. The explosion, which Pyongyang called a response to U.S. hostility, triggered global outrage.

Park has said she won’t yet change her policy, which was built with the high probability of provocations from Pyongyang in mind. But some aren’t sure if engagement can work, given North Korea’s choice of “bombs over electricity,” as American scientist Siegfried Hecker puts it.

“Normalization of relations, a peace treaty, access to energy and economic opportunities – those things that come from choosing electricity over bombs and have the potential of lifting the North Korean people out of poverty and hardship – will be made much more difficult, if not impossible, for at least the next five years,” Hecker, a regular visitor to North Korea, said in a posting on the website of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

As she takes office, however, Park will be mindful that many South Koreans are frustrated at the state of inter-Korean relations after the Lee government’s five-year rule, which saw two nuclear tests, three long-range rocket launches and attacks blamed on North Korea that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.

Park’s policy calls for strong defense but also for efforts to build trust through aid shipments, reconciliation talks and the resumption of some large-scale economic initiatives as progress occurs on the nuclear issue. Park has also held out the possibility of a summit with new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Much is riding on Park’s conclusion.

“The overall policy direction on North Korea among the U.S., Japan and South Korea will be hers to decide,” said Victor Cha, a former senior Asia adviser to President George W. Bush. “If Park Geun-hye wants to contain, the U.S. will support that. But if Park Geun-hye, months down the road, wants to engage, then the U.S. will go along with that too. ”

Her father was a staunch anti-communist who made no secret of his antipathy toward Pyongyang during his 18-year rule in the 1960s and ’70s. In 1968, 31 North Korean commandos staged a failed raid on the Blue House that ended with nearly all of them dead. In 1974, Park’s wife was shot and killed by a Japan-born Korean claiming he was acting on assassination orders by North Korea founder and then leader Kim Il Sung.

Critics say Park Geun-hye’s North Korea policy lacks specifics. They also question how far she can go given her conservative base’s strong anti-Pyongyang sentiments.

But Park has previously confounded ideological expectations. She travelled to Pyongyang in 2002 and held private talks with the late Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un, and her gifts to Kim Jong Il are showcased in a museum of gifts to the North Korean leaders. During the often contentious presidential campaign, she responded to liberal criticism by reaching out to the families of victims of her father’s dictatorship.

She said in her 2007 autobiography that she visited Pyongyang because she thought her painful experiences with the North made her “the one who could resolve South-North relations better than anyone else.” She also wrote that Kim Jong Il apologized for the 1968 attack.

“I don’t think this latest spike in the cycle of provocation and response undermines her whole platform of seeking to somehow re-engage the North,” said John Delury, an analyst at Seoul’s Yonsei University. North Korea wants a return of large-scale aid and investment from South Korea.

Before the election, Pyongyang’s state media repeatedly questioned the sincerity of Park’s engagement overture. Since the election, however, although regular criticism of Lee continues – one report said he was the “rubbish of history” – the North’s official Korean Central News Agency hasn’t mentioned Park by name, though her political party is still condemned.

Pyongyang sees the nuclear crisis as a U.S.-North Korea issue, Delury said. “From a North Korean mindset, ramping up the tension and hostility with the U.S. does not equal jettisoning relations with the South.”

Park may take a wait-and-see stance in coming months.

Analyst Hong Hyun-ik at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea predicts that the United States will seek nuclear talks with North Korea in a few months, something that could help Park’s efforts to engage North Korea.

“The nuclear test sets back and complicates but does not necessarily doom her engagement efforts over the long term,” said Ralph Cossa, president of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Hawaii-based think tank.

Park warned after the test that North Korea faces international isolation, economic difficulties and, eventually, a collapse if it continues to build its atomic program. But she also pressed Pyongyang to respond to her overtures.

“We can’t achieve trust with only one side’s efforts,” she said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 7 comments

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  • G-ManFebruary 24, 2013 - 9:38 pm

    The North will just walk right into the South backed by China..and the USSA.."The most powerful military in the world won't know whether to sheet or wind their watch...Barack will get the word late because he'll be on the back nine

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StR Who really props up N. Korea EconomyFebruary 24, 2013 - 10:31 pm

    google...How does North Korea sustain its economy?.Dec 20, 2011 Matt Lundy..Canadianbusiness dot com....But perhaps North Korea’s most crucial support system comes from China, its biggest trading partner and ally. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China provides North Korea with up to 80% of its consumer goods and 45% of its food. (Other estimates put Chinese food support as high as 70%.)................ The same article says there’s a massive trade imbalance between the two: in 2008, Chinese imports amounted to $2.08 billion, whereas North Korean exports totalled $750 million......... “As far as exports are concerned, North Korea is very rich in minerals and the Chinese have recently entered into a number of very large mining deals for zinc and coal and other products,” says Donald Rickerd, an associate fellow at the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Study of Korea............. The CFR says experts view this trade imbalance “as an indirect Chinese subsidy, given that North Korea can’t finance its trade deficit through borrowing.”.........But the most salacious—and illegal—news about North Korea’s economy comes from National Public Radio. In an audio piece published yesterday, two reporters introduce us to a North Korean defector who formerly worked as a spy for the regime. She claims the government converted potato fields into opium fields, processed drugs and then smuggled them out of the country through China in the 1980s. Nowadays, North Korea is known for its methamphetamine export industry.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 24, 2013 - 10:46 pm

    www dot planetization dot org/rothschild dot htm........but this is kinda a NWO site also?.or Google The History of the House of Rothschild...planetization dot org

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StR Lots of stuff to check out hereFebruary 24, 2013 - 10:52 pm

    www dot truthknowledge dot com/Rothschild.php

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 24, 2013 - 10:59 pm

    Google...Rothschild central bank of china....Basically the Central Bank of China is controlled by the International Banking Cartel and if China is North Korea's main support then it follows that North Korea is actually supported by the Rothschild Baking empire. See at the top they are evil Luciferians euipping and financing all sides of the wars, they just want us all to fight each other worldwide and now they have developed more and more devasting weapons, biological, nuclear, space platforms, information transfer,electronic spy networks ect...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 24, 2013 - 11:32 pm

    Bilderberg stuff...The Bilderberg Plan for 2009: Remaking the Global Political Economy Global department of health, Global treasury Global Research, May 26, 2009 arcticcompass dot blogspot dot com

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StR Obama Administraion 2009 Bild.February 24, 2013 - 11:38 pm

    The Obama administration was heavily represented at this years Bilderberg meeting. Among the attendees were Keith B. Alexander, a Lieutenant General of U.S. Army and Director of the National Security Agency, the massive spying agency of the United States; Timothy Geithner, US Treasury Secretary and former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan; General James Jones, United States National Security Advisor; Henry Kissinger, Obama’s special envoy to Russia, longtime Bilderberg member and former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor; Dennis Ross, special advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; David Patraeus, Commander of CENTCOM, (U.S. Central Command, in the Middle East), Lawrence Summers, Director of the White House's National Economic Council, former Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration, former President of Harvard University, former Chief Economist of the World Bank; Paul Volcker, former Governor of the Federal Reserve System and Chair of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board; Robert Zoellick, former Chairman of Goldman Sachs and current President of the World Bank; and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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