South Korea’s new president Yoon Suk Yeol promised a “bold plan” to bolster North Korea’s economy in exchange for denuclearization in his inauguration speech on Tuesday.
Yoon, a conservative People Power Party, made the remarks after being sworn in as the country’s new leader at a ceremony in the capital Seoul, replacing incumbent President Moon Jae-in.
“Today we face multiple crises,” Yoon said, pointing to the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and a host of economic and social issues.
“As the new president, I am deeply touched by the impressive duty to lead our nation out of the latest crises,” he added. “I am also grateful to be entrusted by the people of this great nation. I am confident that once again we will prevail.
Speaking in parliament, Yoon called North Korea’s nuclear weapons program a “threat” to the region. But, he added, the door to dialogue and a peaceful resolution remains open – and he wanted to help improve life in North Korea in return for greater security.
“If North Korea genuinely 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 lives of its people,” he said. he declared.
Denuclearization “would greatly contribute to bringing lasting peace and prosperity to the Korean Peninsula and beyond”, he added.
During his election campaign, Yoon promised to take a tougher stance on North Korea – a departure from Moon’s approach, which had always encouraged peaceful reconciliation.
In contrast, Yoon pledged not to ease sanctions or prepare a peace treaty until the North “makes active efforts for complete and verifiable denuclearization”, saying earlier this year that it would build “a powerful military force which can certainly deter any provocation”.
Tensions between the Koreas have been particularly high recently amid a recent increase in North Korean missile testing. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on Saturday – the second test this week alone and the 14th missile test so far this year.
By comparison, he only conducted four tests in 2020 and eight in 2021.
Yoon also addressed a number of national issues at the inauguration, including rising unemployment and slowing economic growth. He promised to reverse this trend and encourage “social mobility”, stressing that scientific progress and technological progress were key priorities for building the economy.
The speech was followed by the nationally televised opening of the Blue House, the presidential office, and a number of performances by a choir and orchestra.
Yoon is a relative newcomer to politics, having spent the last 27 years of his career as a prosecutor. He began his political career after leading high-profile investigations into corruption scandals that plagued Moon aides.
He won the presidential election in March by a slim margin against his liberal rival Lee Jae-myung. Yoon’s victory put the Korean government back in the hands of conservatives, more than five years after conservative Park Geun-hye was impeached over her own corruption scandal.