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Pres. Park`s inauguration

Posted February. 26, 2013 08:59,   


Park Geun-hye, Korea’s first female president and the Republic of Korea`s 18th head of state, was inaugurated Monday in the front yard of the National Assembly in Seoul. When her father, Park Chung-hee, took office as the ninth president on Dec. 27, 1978, she attended as first lady on behalf of her late mother. Thirty-five years later, Park Geun-hye became the heroine of her inaugural ceremony. Interestingly, she is age 61 just as her father was back then. As the daughter of a former president, as a first lady, and as a president, she attended more than a few inaugurations.

The location of the inauguration reflects the history of Korea’s democratization and politics. Rhee Syng-man, who laid the foundation of the Republic of Korea, chose to be sworn in at the central government office in 1948. He served three terms before being forced out in 1960. Yun Bo-seon, who took office after the 1960 pro-democracy revolution, changed the location of the inauguration to the National Assembly (now the Seoul City Council), the venue of public opinion, and gave a presidential greeting instead of an inaugural speech. Park Chung-hee, who served five terms after seizing power in the 1961 military coup, had the ceremony returned to the plaza of the central government office. The country`s eighth and ninth inaugurations were held indoors at Jangchung Gymnasium after he was elected through indirect elections of the National Council for Unification. Chun Doo-hwan, who served two terms, changed the inaugural location to Jamsil Gymnasium. The front yard of the National Assembly in Seoul`s Yeouido district has been the venue for the presidential inauguration since the 1987 democratization movement and the adoption of the direct election system.

The inaugural ceremony has gone from being held at a gymnasium to turning into a party venue. President Roh Tae-woo, who declared the “era of ordinary people,” invited citizens for the first time when he took the oath in 1988. A 21-gun salute was also introduced. Traditional Korean music was later used in official national events. President Kim Young-sam rang a bell 33 times to honor the beginning of his term. Since then, themed inaugurations began to appear: “Creating a new Korea -- Let’s go forward together (Kim Young-sam)”; “A new start of harmony and take-off (Kim Dae-jung)”; “Unified people make a new Republic of Korea (Roh Moo-hyun)”; “Let’s go, the era of the people’s success (Lee Myung-bak)”; and “Integration and advance -- into the life of the people (Park Geun-hye).” Musicians who have performed at inaugurations include DJ Doc (Kim Dae-jung), singing group G.O.D., (Roh Moo-hyun), Kim Jang-hoon (Lee), and Psy (Park).

Before inaugural ceremonies, there were major disasters such as the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis (Kim Dae-jung), an arson attack on a Daegu subway train (Roh Moo-hyun), another arson attack on the traditional gate Sungnyemun (Lee), and North Korea’s third nuclear test (Park). Time has changed the people`s status. Kim Dae-jung put a public representative’s seat on the stage. President Park placed her family`s seating lower than the stage. In her inaugural speech, she said, “I pledge to embark on the making of a second `miracle of the Han River` based on a new era of hope hand-in-hand with the Korean people.” This sounds like a dedication letter to her father, who achieved the first miracle of the Han River but stopped at releasing a vision of a welfare country in the 1980s. Hopefully, the new chief executive can perform her duty as President Park, not as the daughter of a former president who wants to achieve the former`s unfulfilled dreams.

Editorial Writer Park Yong (parky@donga.com)