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South Korea's first woman president takes office


South Korea's first female president has taken the oath of office. In her inaugural address, Park Geun-hye urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and promised a new era of economic prosperity.

Park, 61, took her oath before 70,000 people at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. Park, who won election to the country's highest office in December, is the daughter of the late South Korean leader, military strongman Park Chung Hee.

During her speech, Park took a hard line with neighbor North Korea, which carried out its third nuclear test less than two weeks ago.

"North Korea's recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people and there should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself," she said. "I will not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation."

The president added that, as promised in her campaign, she will pursue a policy of trust building with North Korea.

"I will move forward step-by-step on the basis of credible deterrence," she said.

Park's speech mostly focused on the economy, including commitments to job creation, expanded welfare and "economic democratization" at a time of growing concern with income and wealth disparity.

The growth of South Korea's economy, the fourth largest in Asia, has slowed since the "Miracle on the Han" the economic revival following the 1950-53 Korean War.

Park promised "another miracle," saying her administration would build a new "creative economy" that would extend past the country's traditional manufacturing base.

"At the very heart of a creative economy lie science, technology and the IT industry, areas that I have earmarked as key priorities," she said.

Park last served in South Korea's presidential mansion, the Blue House, in the 1970's during her father's reign. The elder Park seized power in a 1961 coup and ruled for 18 years until his assassination in 1979. He remains a divisive figure credited with pulling South Korea out of poverty but condemned for his human rights abuses.

In 1974, Park cut her studies in Paris short to serve as First Lady after her mother was killed in an assassination attempt targeted at her father. She left five years later when Park Chung Hee was gunned down by his spy chief during a drinking party.

In December's election, Park won around 52 percent of the vote, compared to 48 percent for her liberal opponent, in one of the most hotly-contested races in years. Monday's two-and-a-half hour inauguration ceremony included a 21-gun salute and a performance of 2012's global hit "Gangnam Style" by Korean rapper Psy.

dr/lw (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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