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Park takes oath to lead South Korea

By Dirk Godder

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

LAST UPDATED: 10:14 a.m. HST, Feb 25, 2013

SEOUL » Park Geun Hye, the oldest daughter of a former South Korean dictator, urged North Korea Monday (Sunday in Hawaii) to give up its nuclear program and instead focus on its development as she was sworn in as the nation's first female president.

"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 in her inaugural address, less than two weeks after the North conducted its third nuclear test.

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

Park, 61, the daughter of Park Chung Hee, leader from 1961 to 1979, followed her fellow conservative Lee Myung Bak into South Korea's highest office after winning the election in December.

Before taking office, she promised a more moderate approach to North Korea than the hardline stance of her predecessor, which strained relations between the two neighbors.

South Korea remains technically at war with the North after a ceasefire and not a peace treaty ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Park said her five-year term would be devoted to laying the foundation for reunification between the communist North and capitalist South through mutual trust.

The 14-year member of the National Assembly for the ruling Saenuri Party also devoted much of her speech to the economy, which she promised to revitalize.

"I will breathe new energy into our economy and realize a 'Second Miracle on the Han River,'" she said, referring to South Korea's economic rise from the 1960s onwards, which has made it Asia's fourth-largest economy.

She said the accomplishment of her goal would be "propelled by a creative economy and economic democratization" and centered on science and technology.

Park took her oath of office before more than 50,000 people in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, including Lee and Psy, who performed his international hit ``Gangnam Style’’ during the ceremony.

The president said South Korea faces "an extremely serious security environment" and pledged, "I will not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation."

But she also held out an olive branch to Pyongyang, inviting it to undertake "trust-building measures" with Seoul.

"It is my sincere hope that North Korea can progress together as a responsible member of the international community instead of wasting its resources on nuclear and missile development and continuing to turn its back to the world in self-imposed isolation," she said.

North Korea was condemned internationally for its nuclear test Feb. 12, which violated U.N. resolutions. It vowed to conduct further tests.

Park is making a return to the presidential residence, the Blue House. She served as first lady to her military dictator father beginning when she was 22 after her mother was killed in a failed 1974 assassination attempt on Park Chung Hee.

In 1979, another assassination attempt was successful, ending 18 years of Park Chung Hee's iron-fisted rule and causing his daughter to leave the Blue House.

She did not return to politics until her election to the National Assembly in 1998.

Despite human rights abuses committed out during his tenure, the elder Park remains a respected figure in South Korea because of the economic growth seen during his rule.

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