South Korea swears in Yoon Suk-yeol as new president

South Korea on Monday, swore in conservative politician Yoon Suk-yeol as the country’s new president who made a promise to chart an “audacious” plan to North Korea, and to reinforce the South’s democracy and freedoms.

Yoon, a former prosecutor, won the election in March by the slimmest of margins after basing his campaign on the promise to “sternly deal” with the threat posed by the Northern leader Kim Jong Un’s regime, while leaving open the door to dialogue.

His predecessor Moon Jae-in had pursued a policy of engagement with the North holding a summit with Kim in 2018 and also brokered two summits between Kim and then-United States President Donald Trump, but the relations broke down in 2019, while denuclearisation talks have been stalled ever since.

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The 61-year-old Yoon in his acceptance speech, offered an olive branch to Pyongyang, which has conducted a record 15 weapons tests since January, two of them in the past week.

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“While North Korea’s nuclear weapon programmes are a threat not only to our security and that of Northeast Asia, the door to dialogue will remain open so that we can peacefully resolve this threat,” the new president said.

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“If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearisation, we are prepared to work with the international community to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen North Korea’s economy and improve the quality of life for its people,” Yoon added.

Among guests who witnessed the occasion were the Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Doug Emhoff, the husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris.

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