Yoon Suk Yeol Sworn in as South Korea's New President
By: Ahmed Fathi
Yoon Suk Yeol was sworn in as South Korea's new president on Tuesday, and the leader of the country's first conservative government in five years used his inauguration speech to indicate the door was open for discussion with North Korea, despite the North's escalating missile activities.
"I come before you today, humbled by your confidence and responsibility, and mindful of my serious obligation to rebuild this great nation," Yoon said inside the National Assembly compound in Seoul.
He emphasized the value of freedom and long-term peace, while encouraging discussion with North Korea to peacefully settle the country's "threats."
"While North Korea's nuclear weapons programs pose a threat not just to our security but also to the security of Northeast Asia," Yoon said, adding that disarmament will contribute to long-term peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.
"If North Korea truly embarks on a process of full denuclearization," he continued, "we are prepared to engage with the international community to submit an audacious plan that will substantially expand North Korea's economy and improve the quality of life for its people."
Foreign dignataries attended the innugration included United States Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Japan Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi., China's Vice President Wang Qishan also attended as President Xi Jinping's "special representative." Wang is one of the most senior Chinese diplomats to have ever attended a South Korean presidential inauguration.
Yoon, 61, was the country's chief prosecutor until March 2021, when he resigned in protest of President Moon Jae In's progressive government's prosecution reform program, which he opposed.
Yoon then set his eyes on the presidency, and as the main opposition party's nominee, he narrowly defeated a rival candidate from Moon's party in the March election.
Under Yoon, who has backed better ties with the US and adopted a tough position toward North Korea, Seoul's strategy toward Pyongyang is expected to shift from one of rapprochement to one of pressure.
Yoon has committed to the South Korea-US alliance in meetings at a time of increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula following series of missile testing totalled 14 by the North since the begining of the year..
The incoming president will meet with President Joe Biden when he visits South Korea on May 20 before heading to Japan.