Dhe sun was shining and the music was playing Edward Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ march. More than a dozen tenors sang the Korean folk song “Arirang” and Puccini’s aria “Nessun dorma”. Yoon Suk-yeol and his wife were greeted with flowers by two children. South Korea’s new president was inaugurated in front of around 40,000 spectators on Tuesday in front of the parliament in Seoul.
In his speech, Yoon, 61, evoked the value of political and economic freedom and pledged to rebuild the nation on the basis of liberal democracy and a thriving market economy. The division of society and social conflicts could only be overcome through rapid and sustained economic growth.
Yoon promises “bold plan”
He became more specific with regard to North Korea. The North’s nuclear weapons program is threatening security in the region and beyond, Yoon said. “The door to dialogue will remain open so that we can resolve the threat peacefully.” He pledged a “bold plan” for North Korea’s economy development in cooperation with the international community if the regime gets serious about denuclearization, the disarmament of the nuclear weapons program , begin.
It is expected that the conservative Yoon – despite the offer of talks – will take a more decisive stance against North Korea than his predecessor, the left-liberal Moon Jae-in. During the election campaign, Yoon had not ruled out first strikes against North Korea as a defense.
North Korea has fired 15 missiles since the beginning of the year. South Korea and America have hints that Kim Jong-un’s regime may soon start testing nuclear warheads again. The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to discuss the matter this Wednesday.
After the inauguration, in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Yoon spoke out in favor of improving the tense relations with the neighboring country. Yoon said he wanted to meet Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as soon as possible.
Biden is coming to Seoul at the end of May
During the election campaign he had already advocated better relations with Japan and a strengthening of relations with the United States. At the end of May, American President Joe Biden is expected to attend a first summit meeting with Yoon in Seoul. Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan brought Yoon an invitation from Chinese leader Xi Jinping to visit China on Tuesday.
While Yoon took up his duties at the new official residence, formerly the Defense Ministry, the Blue House, Seoul’s traditional presidential residence, opened to the general public. Yoon fulfilled a campaign promise.
Former President Park Geun-hye attended the inauguration. Park was impeached in 2017 and jailed, and was pardoned by outgoing President Moon this year. Former President Lee Myung-bak, who is still in prison for corruption, was unable to attend. Moon had left the issue of pardoning Lee to the new president.
It is eagerly awaited whether investigations will be opened against former President Moon and members of his cabinet after the change of government. In the final days of his tenure, Moon, with the support of the Democratic Party majority in parliament, rushed through yet another judicial reform that would largely remove investigative powers from prosecutors in favor of the police.
Moon wanted to counteract the politicization of the public prosecutor’s office, which is often lamented in South Korea. Conservative politicians criticize that Moon wants to stop investigations against his government.
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