(3rd LD) Yoon defends freedom and liberal democracy while offering to revive NK economy with ‘bold plan’

(ATTN: UPDATES with details of inauguration speech, ceremony; EDITS to photos; TRIMS)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) — President Yoon Suk-yeol was sworn in on Tuesday, promising to rebuild the nation on the basis of liberal democracy and a market economy and proposing to revive the northeastern economy. Korea with a “bold plan” that should it takes steps to denuclearize.

In his inauguration speech in National Assembly Square, Yoon described various challenges facing the country and the world, from pandemics and rearrangements in global supply chains to record growth and the rise of the unemployment.

“It is the call of our generation to build a nation that embraces liberal democracy and ensures a thriving market economy, a nation that assumes its responsibility as a trusted member of the international community and a nation that truly belongs to the people,” he said. some 41,000 people gathered at the ceremony.

“I stand before you today humbled by the trust and responsibility you have placed in me and aware of my solemn duty to rebuild this great nation.”

Yoon technically began his five-year term at midnight in the underground bunker of the new presidential office building in Yongsan where he was briefed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on North Korea’s latest military moves and posture. of the South Korean army, according to his office. .

“While North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs pose a threat not only to our security and that of Northeast Asia, the door of dialogue will remain open so that we can peacefully resolve this threat,” he said. said Yoon in his inaugural speech.

“If North Korea truly embarks on a process of complete denuclearization, we stand ready to work with the international community to present a bold plan that will significantly strengthen North Korea’s economy and improve the quality of life of its people.” , did he declare.

Yoon devoted much of his speech to emphasizing the value of freedom – a word he used 35 times – and his commitment to working with other nations to overcome common challenges.

He also warned of the debilitating effects of internal division and conflict on the advancement and growth of South Korean society.

“It is essential that we achieve rapid growth and this will only be possible through science, technology and innovation,” he said. “Science, technology and innovation — they will protect our democracy, expand freedom and our inalienable rights to enable our people to enjoy a sustainable life in dignity.”

Yoon takes over at a time when South Korea’s economy is struggling to cope with “three simultaneous peaks” in inflation, interest rates and exchange rates.

On the security front, the threat from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs looms larger than ever, as the communist nation looks set to conduct its seventh nuclear test as early as this month.

Economic security and North Korea are expected to be high on the agenda of Yoon’s first summit with US President Joe Biden in Seoul on May 21.

Biden’s visit, scheduled for May 20-22, will only take place 10 days after Yoon takes office, and their planned meeting will mark the first-ever Korea-US summit to take place after Biden’s inauguration. a South Korean president.

Yoon headed straight for the new presidential office after the ceremony, greeting citizens standing in his car and stopping briefly at a playground with first lady Kim Keon-hee to meet some children.

Yoon fought to locate the new office in the former Defense Department compound, demonstrating his desire to be closer to the public.

Yoon considered Cheong Wa Dae, the former presidential office built on a majestic compound at the foot of a mountain, as a “symbol of imperial power”.

In the afternoon, he is due to meet with foreign delegations visiting South Korea to attend his inauguration, including US Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.

Later in the day, he will also attend the inauguration celebrations at the National Assembly and host a dinner for local and foreign dignitaries at the Shilla Hotel.

In his speech, Yoon called on the nation to take on greater responsibilities as the world’s 10th largest economy.

“It behooves us to take on a bigger role, befitting our stature as a world leader,” he said. “We must assume an even greater role in expanding freedom and human rights, not only for ourselves but also for others. The international community expects us to do so. We must respond to this call.”

One of the biggest challenges Yoon faces in foreign policy is mending the deeply fractured ties with Japan.

With China, Yoon needs Beijing’s cooperation to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and maintain a strong bilateral trade relationship.

On the home front, Yoon faces a hostile National Assembly controlled by the main opposition party, the Democratic Party (DP).

With 168 seats out of 300, the DP delayed the process of parliamentary confirmation of Yoon’s Cabinet candidates, forcing the new government to hold its first Cabinet meeting this week with several members of the outgoing administration.

Meanwhile, local elections on June 1 are only weeks away and the new government wants to avoid a scenario where Yoon’s ruling People Power Party loses either the local elections or the seven by-elections that are being held simultaneously so early in his tenure.