President-elect Park Geun-hye on Monday called for cooperation from Britain and France to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear programs and build trust with Seoul and the international community.
She met with ambassadors from the two European and nine Southeast Asian nations in her office in downtown Seoul.
“It is very difficult now for a nation to develop without working together with the international community as its responsible member. I hope to see North Korea choose that path and change in cooperation with France,” she said during a meeting with French Ambassador to Seoul Jerome Pasquier.
President-elect Park Geun-hye meets diplomats from Southeast Asian nations at her office in Seoul on Monday.
From right are transition committee member Yun Byung-se, Ambassador Peter Tan Hai Chuan of Singapore and Ambassador Dato Harun Ismail of Brunei. (Yonhap News)
She requested Paris’s support for united action at the U.N. Security Council against North Korea’s provocation.
South Korea, a nonpermanent member of the top decision-making body of the United Nations, is pushing to draw up new U.N. sanctions within this month over the communist state’s launch of a long-range rocket Dec. 12, which flouted bans on its atomic and missile activity.
France and the United Kingdom are among five veto-wielding permanent members of the UNSC.
Later in the day, Park met with British envoy Scott Wightman and agreed to work together to realize her goals to restore trust with the North and open it up to the outside world.
“Seoul and London have closely cooperated in the international arena as close partners on the shared values of liberal democracy and market economics,” she told the ambassador.
The envoy expressed the U.K. government’s firm support for Seoul’s policy to maintain peace and security on the peninsula, pledging to support for Park’s “trustpolitik” for reengaging North Korea.
The incoming president also met with ambassadors from nine members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss ways to boost economic and personnel exchanges. They are Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Philippines and Brunei.
She recognized the friendly ties between Korea and ASEAN members. “Korea considers its relationship with ASEAN to be very important and will further reinforce diplomacy with them.”
Earlier in the day, the Foreign Ministry told the presidential transition committee that it would focus on fleshing out her “trust-building process” and resolve the prolonged nuclear standoff with Pyongyang.
“(The trust initiative) is among Park’s pledges, and the transition committee has requested us to brief on how to realize it,” a senior ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity.
Seven other agencies took part in the fourth round of policy briefings, including the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science and Technology Commission, and the Board of Audit and Inspection.
With security high on her priorities, the president-in-waiting has promised to resume dialogue with the North, scale up humanitarian support and follow through on prior agreements between the two Koreas on peninsular denuclearization.
But she reiterated the need for “stringent action” against additional provocations. “The North’s nuclear development will never be accepted,” she said in a meeting on Thursday with Zhang Zhijun, China’s vice foreign minister and special envoy.
The Foreign Ministry is also pushing for an increase in its budget and workforce, Seoul’s official development assistance and public diplomacy projects,
Also on the agenda were summit diplomacy, the Seoul-Washington alliance and a revision of their nuclear energy pact, and historical conflicts in Northeast Asia, deputy transition team chief Chin Young told a media briefing.
The ministry has been striving to beef up its budget and labor force in line with the country’s growing and diversifying role on the international stage.
As for the ODA, it has been pushing for more streamlined operations under its command amid mounting criticism over fragmented commitments among state agencies.
The agency set aside 566 billion won ($536 million) in ODA spending for this year, up about 10.7 percent from a year ago. That represents 0.16 percent of gross national income, which the ministry wants to boost to 0.25 percent by 2015.
In line with Park’s vision for a “people’s diplomacy,” some officials are aiming to install a new bureau for public diplomacy and upgrade the current units for development policy and consular services.
This year’s budget includes public diplomacy as a separate item for the first time with 6 billion won.
“We are planning to appeal for public diplomacy as a fresh item that fits her vision for an ‘attractive Korea,’” another senior official said, asking not to be named citing ongoing consultations.
“It can also go hand in hand with her pledges to support youth employment and drum up public participation in public diplomacy efforts.”
The Ministry of Employment and Labor reported to the committee it would draft a road map for boosting the country’s employment rate to 70 percent, from the current 60 percent, in five years.
Promoting job sharing, offering jobs for youths, women and the elderly, and improving the quality of workers’ lives will be included in the ministry’s drive for job creation.
The two sides also discussed ways to increase cooperation among related ministries and seek public support to push the government’s envisioned plans.
Stressing that the ideological divide on labor was nearing its end, the handover team said it was time for the Labor Ministry to play a crucial role in creating and securing stable jobs.
“The world no longer has a (dividing line between) conservative and progressive, and no left and right. How to create new jobs has become one of the most important issues in our society and a role of the Labor Ministry,” said transition committee deputy chief Chin Young.
The ministry said it plans to reduce Korea’s work hours to the OECD average by 2020 in line with Park’s campaign pledges.
To shorten Korea’s notoriously long working hours, Park vowed to curb the corporate practice of forcing employees to work on weekends.
In 2010, Korean labors worked 2,193 hours on average, more than 400 hours longer than the OECD average of 1,749 hours. The government plans to offer incentives to companies to reduce work hours and create new jobs to keep up productivity.
On youth unemployment, the government said it would establish funds with companies to support business start-ups and create 1 million jobs in the public sector.
In the afternoon, the Korea Food and Drug Administration said it would strengthen the food-tracking system and take punitive measures against traders of hazardous food.
Food-related crimes were one of the “four social evils” listed by the president-elect that threaten public safety. It also plans to build an integrated database on imported food for related ministries to share information and improve food safety.
By Shin Hyon-hee and Cho Chung-un