Yoon Suk-yeol, a former prosecutor, took the oath of office as the 13th President of South Korea on Tuesday and vowed to rebuild the nation on the foundation of a liberal democracy and market economy.
The 61-year-old kicked off his five-year term at midnight in the underground bunker of the new presidential office building in Yongsan by receiving a briefing from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
To usher in the new administration, a bell-ringing ceremony was held at the stroke of midnight in downtown Seoul.
His inauguration ceremony was attended by 41,000 people, including foreign envoys such as US Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.
In his inaugration address, Yoon outlined various challenges facing the country and the world from pandemics and rearrangements in global supply chains to record-low growth and rising unemployment in South Korea.
“It is our generation’s calling to build a nation that espouses liberal democracy and ensures a thriving market economy, a nation that fulfils its responsibility as a trusted member of the international community, and a nation that truly belongs to the people,” he said before some 41,000 people gathered at the ceremony, noting that he is mindful of his “solemn duty to rebuild
this great nation”.
The new President also offered North Korea an olive branch amid its increased saber rattling
“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.
“If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearization, 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,” he added.
Yoon takes over at a time when South Korea is struggling to deal with economic challenges stemming from the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and other factors resulting in the phenomenon of “three simultaneous highs” in inflation, interest rates and exchange rates.
Both economic security and North Korea are expected to feature high on the agenda of Yoon’s first summit with US President Joe Biden in Seoul on May 21.
On the domestic front, he faces a hostile National Assembly controlled by the main opposition Democratic Party.