Commander-in-chief day for President Park

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Commander-in-chief day for President Park

President Park Geun-hye yesterday had a military-themed day, visiting the nation’s main defense technology institute and attending the first deployment of Korean-built helicopters, while issuing another message to North Korea to stop making threats.

The schedule came shortly after North Korea’s latest firing of short-range projectiles three days in a row since Saturday.

Yesterday morning, Park visited the Agency for Defense Development, founded by her father decades ago, and received a briefing on the research institute’s operations. The Blue House said yesterday the visit was intended to check the nation’s readiness against security threats and to explore how defense science and technology can be included in Park’s campaign to develop a “creative economy” for Korea.

“It feels very meaningful to visit the agency, which served as the center of our country’s defense science and technology and contributed greatly to the advancement of heavy and chemical industries and information and communication industries for the past 40 years,” Park said. “I feel assured to see the researchers focusing on projects after North Korea recently continued nuclear and missile provocations.”

According to the Blue House, Park inspected major research projects at the agency. “She showed a special interest in the Korea Air and Missile Defense System designed to counter the North’s nuclear and missile threats,” a Blue House press statement said.

Park paid special attention to projects through which defense technologies can be used in the private sector, the Blue House said.

Under the motto “cornerstone of self-reliant national defense,” the agency was established in 1970 during the rule of Park Chung Hee. It developed basic firearms for the military during the postwar period when the nation lacked a domestic industrial foundation and continued its research and development into more advanced weapons systems over the past decades.

Before the agency was launched, the South Korean military was in poor shape while the North invested 20 percent of its gross national product in armaments. The United States also cut its troops in the South, prompting Seoul to invest more in self-defense projects.

Because it was linked with Park Chung Hee’s ambition to develop a nuclear weapon program, the agency’s missile development team was dismantled under the Chun Doo Hwan regime, who also abandoned the nuclear program under pressure from the Reagan administration in the U.S.

Yesterday afternoon, Park attended a ceremony at the Army Aviation School in Nonsan, South Chungcheong, to mark the first operational deployment of Korean-built Surion transport utility helicopters. It was the first time that a president attended an operational deployment ceremony of the military since 1987.

With Surion’s completion, Korea became the 11th country in the world with the technologies to build its own helicopters, Park said, adding that the project will create 12 trillion won ($10.78 billion) of industrial benefits to the economy and 50,000 jobs.

“I believe the defense industry, through a marriage with the creativity of private sector, should serve as a core engine to make the creative economy bloom,” Park said.

In her speech, Park, dressed in a bomber jacket, also urged Pyongyang to end its provocative behavior, warning of stern counteractions.

“South Korea and the U.S. will not concede or provide assistance in the face of the crisis that the North created,” Park said, while reiterating that a door for dialogue still remains open.

Park boarded one of the helicopters briefly to check it out.


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

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