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Era of 1st female pres. begins in S.Korea

Posted February. 25, 2013 08:11,   


The era of President Park Geun-hye has opened. The country’s 18th chief executive will lead the Republic of Korea for the next five years. All eyes around the world are on the first female president of South Korea to see what the future holds for her and her nation. Aware of all the attention on her, she probably feels a huge responsibility on her shoulders. President Park has pledged to usher in an era of the people’s happiness. She also might want to make the dream of her late father, former President Park Chung-hee, come true. The president’s dream is that of the country’s 50 million people.

Sixty-eight years ago, the Korean Peninsula achieved independence from Japanese colonial rule. Back then, Korea was a small and impoverished country. But the Korean War left the poor state stripped to its bones. Getting the devastated country stand on its own feet was far from easy. Weathering countless difficulties and challenges in the course of industrialization and democratization, South Korea has become the world’s most successful case of economic development. Once the poorest country on the planet, the nation with a population of 50 million became the 14th largest economy last year with per capita income of more than 20,000 U.S. dollars, which is seventh in the world. The country’s democracy has also been developing. All of this was possible thanks to the concerted efforts of the people and the president. Therefore, Korea`s new history is in the hands of President Park Geun-hye.

The situation at home and abroad that President Park confronts is not favorable, however. More than anything, national security on the peninsula is rapidly changing. With its third nuclear test, North Korea has practically joined the nuclear club. Such weapons of mass destruction in the hands of the rogue state threaten the lives of the people on both sides of the peninsula as well as world peace. In her presidential campaign, President Park promised to build a process between the two Koreas based on mutual trust. This ambitious plan, however, is in danger of being scrapped before even getting started. Diplomatic conflicts over territory with China and Japan have also grown serious.

No signs of improvement have been detected in the global economic crisis, while South Korea’s economic growth rate has remained below 3 percent. Social and economic polarization in the country has also grown serious.

Despite all of this, South Koreans have high hopes for their new government. They want their president to fulfill her pledges such as creating quality jobs by accelerating the country’s economic growth engines once again, correcting unfair practices in the market, and expanding social welfare on a big scale. Growth and public welfare, however, are said to be largely incompatible. The new president should also curb the rise of sovereign debt and improve the country’s fiscal status.

In varying degrees, national security and economic crisis have always existed under every government of the Republic of Korea. What matters most is the president’s leadership and the people’s attitude. Any kind of difficulties or obstacles in the economy or national security can be overcome if the leader sets the right direction and earns the people’s consensus on it. This year marks the 60th anniversary of both the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War and diplomatic relations between South Korea and the U.S. Peace comes at a price. To maintain peace on the peninsula, Seoul must strengthen its national defense and further nurtures its bilateral alliance with Washington. Simultaneously South Korea needs to be ready for reunification with North Korea at any time.

President Park was elected with 52 percent of the vote. She must embrace and earn the hearts of the other 48 percent to integrate the nation and overcome the economic crisis as she pledged. She is expected to exercise leadership of listening to all opinions, including criticism of her, communicating with the people including opponents of her, appointing people from diverse backgrounds across party lines to posts in her administration, and nurturing both the ruling and opposition parties through dialogue and compromise.