On her first day as president, Park Geun-hye started her official duty as the commander-in-chief as the nation confronted renewed North Korean nuclear threats.
At 12 o’clock sharp, she mobilized the military hotline with Joint Chiefs of Staff chief Gen. Jung Seung-jo to ensure a robust security posture.
“This is President Park Geun-hye,” she said from her private home in southern Seoul. “I appreciate the efforts of all soldiers including you. Please make sure the military remains ready so the people can be at ease.”
“All clear, in operations throughout the peninsula and overseas units,” Jung said in response. “The military is monitoring North Korean troops and maintaining full readiness against additional provocations.”
A midnight double-check has for years been a routine for new presidents but their counterparts over the line were typically colonel-level heads of the JCS’ Command and Control Center.
Jung’s firsthand report reflects a brewing security crisis in the aftermath of Pyongyang’s Feb. 12 nuclear test that has threatened Park’s “trust-building process” policy designed to make way for reconciliation between the two Koreas.
In parallel, the military had been on special alert since Saturday with all commanders on standby across the country. At Cheong Wa Dae, Kim Jang-soo, national security office chief designate, took over operations from former head of the presidential office for national crisis management Ahn Kwang-chan and presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security Chun Young-woo.
Early in the morning, Park paid a visit to the national cemetery in central Seoul ahead of being sworn in before some 70,000 people including her predecessors, former and incumbent ranking officials and rank-and-file citizens.
Later in the day, Park signed a motion requesting parliamentary approval of Prime Minister nominee Chung Hong-won.
With about 30 high-level officials from around the world in town, the inauguration provided a venue for vigorous diplomatic exchanges. Park held a series of bilateral meetings at Cheong Wa Dae starting around 5 p.m.
They included Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, and Singaporean Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
She also met with Liu Yandong, a state councilor for education, culture and science and member of the Chinese Communist Party’s powerful Politburo, and Viktor Ishayev, minister for the development of the Russian Far East.
Other foreign delegates included Tom Donilon, top U.S. national security advisor known as one of President Barack Obama’s closest and most trusted confidants, Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Canadian Governor-General David Johnston and Vietnam’s Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan.
By Shin Hyon-hee (email@example.com