Park says she won’t tolerate security threats

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Park says she won’t tolerate security threats

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Left: Park Geun-hye, presidential candidate of the ruling Saenuri Party, makes a courtesy call yesterday to former President Kim Young-sam. [NEWSIS] Right: Park also visits Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, in Donggyo-dong, central Seoul. [YONHAP]


The conservative ruling party’s presidential candidate Park Geun-hye yesterday made public her stance on inter-Korean relations that she won’t tolerate any threat to South Korea’s national security, while leaving the door open for dialogue with the North.

Park, the Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate, talked about various pending issues surrounding her campaign and her visions at a luncheon with a group of journalists. Asked about the current deadlock in the inter-Korean relations, Park said she thinks it is necessary to have various talks with the North to improve the situation.

Asked if she, as president, would restore relations with the North without an apology for the Yeonpyeong Island shelling and the death of a South Korean tourist at the Mount Kumgang resort, Park said no threats to South Korea’s security will be tolerated.

Since the launch of the Lee Myung-bak administration in February 2008, relations between the two Koreas rapidly deteriorated as Pyongyang staged a series of deadly provocations.

A South Korean tourist was shot dead in the North’s Mount Kumgang resort in July 2008. The North also sank a South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010 and shelled Yeonpyeong Island the following November.

“It is irresponsible for the government to keep a business-as-usual attitude as if nothing happened because many young soldiers were sacrificed,” Park said. “But it is also a problem that this deadlock continues.”

“I will make sure that a clear message will be given that any harmful action to our people will be retaliated and face a clear and stronger retribution.”

During the luncheon, Park also talked about her vision for national unity by ending decades of ideological and regional rifts.

In a symbolic first step, she paid respect before the grave of liberal icon former President Roh Moo-hyun on Tuesday and she said yesterday,“I hope it will serve as the beginning of national unity.”

Park continued her quest for unity yesterday by making visits to the widow of the late President Kim Dae-jung and former President Kim Young-sam. The two Kims were the champions of democratization who fought against her father Park Chung Hee’s authoritarian rule from his military coup in 1961 till his assassination in 1979.

Park paid the visit to Lee Hee-ho, widow of Kim Dae-jung, in the afternoon. Park’s last meeting with Lee was when she visited Kim after he was hospitalized in August 2009.

“If you become the president, all women in the country will be proud of you,” Lee was quoted as telling Park by a spokesman for Park’s election camp, lawmaker Lee Sang-il. “It will be the first in our country, and Korea’s prestige will grow.”

As the former first lady, known for her efforts to improve women’s rights, Lee asked Park to pay more attention to the issue, Park replied that “I will work hard to meet expectations.”

The widow of the late president, known for his engagement policy toward North Korea, also expressed hope for better inter-Korean ties.

At the meeting, Park also told Lee about her meeting with the late president in 2004.

“At the time, I apologized to him for his suffering during my father’s regime, and Kim responded positively,” Park said. “I have kept his words in my heart. I also appreciate his decision to build a memorial for my father.”

Park also said Kim has told her in the past to work for national unity and she will work on the issue.

Earlier in the morning, Park paid a visit to former President Kim Young-sam. The last time Park met with Kim was in 2008 at the funeral of the former president’s father.

During her 20-minute meeting with Kim, Park promised her efforts for national unity once again. “For Korea to make another leap for advancement and for the people to be happy, unity is crucial,” Park said. “I will put forth efforts toward this.”

Kim wished Park luck in her political journey. “The country is in a crisis economically, socially,” Kim said. “Korea’s relationships with China and Japan are also complicated. In this crisis, the role of the presidential candidate from the ruling party is very important, and I hope you to do well.”

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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