South Korea's first female president takes office

Park-Geun-hyeSeoul, Feb 25 : Park Geun-hye was sworn in as South Korea's first female president Monday, pledging economic revival and educational system overhaul and urging North Korea to rid itself of its nuclear programme.

"The new administration will usher in a new era of hope premised on a revitalizing economy, the happiness of our people, and the blossoming of our culture," Park said in an inauguration speech delivered to some
70,000 people gathered in front of the country's parliament for the ceremony.

The 61-year-old vowed to root out "unfair practices" that stifled the growth of small and medium-sized businesses, reform the educational system to allow more room for creativity and bring about "flourishing culture", reported Xinhua.

Park, whose inauguration came on the heels of a widely condemned nuclear test by North Korea, also sent a warning message to the unpredictable northern neighbour.

"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," Park said.

"I urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay and embark on the path to peace and shared development."

At the same time, she reaffirmed her pledge to seek a so-called "trust-building process" between the two Koreas to "lay the groundwork for an era of harmonious unification".

"Trust can be built through dialogue and by honouring promises that have already been made. It is my hope that North Korea will abide by international norms and make the right choice so that the trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula can move forward," Park said.

Her first call after beginning her five-year term midnight Sunday was to Gen. Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a move designed to highlight her commitment to border security.

The 61-year-old daughter of late military strongman Park Chung-hee won the Dec 19 presidential election, becoming the first-ever president to earn a majority of the popular vote since democratic elections were introduced here in 1987.

Park, a political veteran with the moniker "queen of elections", acted as the de facto first lady to her father after her mother was assassinated by a North Korean agent and is credited with reviving the ruling party mired in corruption scandals.

She remains widely popular among older people nostalgic for rapid economic growth under the senior Park's 18-year authoritarian rule, while critics point to ruthless suppression of dissidents during his reign. (IANS)

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