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Yoon vows to rebuild nation by defending 'value of freedom'

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President Yoon Suk-yeol salutes during his inauguration at the National Assembly Plaza, Tuesday. Former president Park Geun-hye is seen sitting to the left directly behind Yoon. Joint Press Corps.
President Yoon Suk-yeol salutes during his inauguration at the National Assembly Plaza, Tuesday. Former president Park Geun-hye is seen sitting to the left directly behind Yoon. Joint Press Corps.

Former prosecutor general sworn in as Korea's president

By Ko Dong-hwan

President Yoon Suk-yeol was sworn in as president on Tuesday and promised to rebuild the nation as a responsible, respected member of the international community based on democracy and a free market economy.

Reiterating freedom, peace and human rights as some of the core values of the nation, Yoon said he would do his utmost to help the country play a greater role in defending those values around the world.

"It is our generation's calling to build a nation that espouses liberal democracy and ensures a thriving market economy, a nation that fulfills its responsibility as a trusted member of the international community and a nation that truly belongs to the people," he said.

The most frequently used word in Yoon's inauguration speech was "freedom," which was used 35 times. It was followed by "people" (15 times) "citizens" (15 times) "global" (13 times) and "peace" (12 times).

Former President Moon Jae-in, left, and his wife Kim Jung-sook, center, greet President Yoon Suk-yeol, Tuesday, during Yoon's inauguration at the National Assembly Plaza. Joint Press Corps.
Former President Moon Jae-in, left, and his wife Kim Jung-sook, center, greet President Yoon Suk-yeol, Tuesday, during Yoon's inauguration at the National Assembly Plaza. Joint Press Corps.

"Freedom is a universal value. Every citizen and every member of society must be able to enjoy freedom. If one's freedom is infringed upon or left uncorrected, this is an assault on everyone's freedom," Yoon said. "Hunger, poverty, abuse of power and armed conflict strip away our individual freedom and rob us of our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. We, as global citizens who enjoy real freedom, must never turn a blind eye when freedom is attacked."

He switched the gears by addressing the need for the establishment of sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula.

He vowed an unspecified but bold plan to assist North Korea to rebuild its moribund economy, if the North gives up its nuclear program.

"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," Yoon said.

A prosecutor-turned-president, Yoon had a fresh start as head of state.

On their way to the presidential inauguration on Tuesday morning, he and first lady Kim Keon-hee met a crowd of 250 residents from their neighborhood in Acrovista, a luxurious apartment village in Seocho District in southern Seoul. With signs that praised him and a 10-year-old boy's drawing of "The Butt Detective," a Japanese cartoon character that he said looked like Yoon, they were waiting for the couple at the main entrance of the village to send their neighbors off in a festive spirit.

President Yoon Suk-yeol waves to crowds as he leaves the National Assembly following his inauguration, Tuesday. Joint Press Corps.
President Yoon Suk-yeol waves to crowds as he leaves the National Assembly following his inauguration, Tuesday. Joint Press Corps.

Cordoned off behind fences, the crowd received greetings from the new first couple from Tuesday, who, at around 10:00 a.m., headed to the Seoul National Cemetery in a motorcade. Yoon and Kim will live there for another month and move to a new presidential residence, the former residence of the country's foreign affairs minister in Hannam-dong in Seoul's Yongsan District, which is now being remodeled.

National Defense Minister Seo Wook and Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Hwang Ki-chul greeted the couple as they arrived at the cemetery to pay tribute to fallen patriots. On his way out, Yoon wrote a message in the guestbook that read, "Upholding the sacrifice and the devotion of the patriotic martyrs, I will make the Republic of Korea leap forward again and become a country where the people can live well together."

The couple then arrived at the National Assembly before 11 a.m. where the inauguration event was to take place. Some 40,000 people were there to watch the event, including 24,000 members of the public. Former president Park Geun-hye, who was pardoned last December after serving a prison term for corruption during her incumbency, and Yoon's predecessor Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook were in attendance. Whether Park would attend the event was a hot issue until Yoon, in April, visited her residence in Daegu to invite her to the event.

From the main entrance of the National Assembly, the first couple greeted the excited crowd behind safety fences as they walked some 180 meters along a path that cut through a carpet of lawns to their reserved seats before the stage in front of the Assembly's main building. Music played by Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and Heart to Heart Orchestra, which is comprised of people with disabilities, as well as 234 choir members filled the air as the couple made their procession.

President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee, left, greet crowds as they walked up to the stage for the presidential inauguration at the National Assembly Plaza, Tuesday. Joint Press Corps.
President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee, left, greet crowds as they walked up to the stage for the presidential inauguration at the National Assembly Plaza, Tuesday. Joint Press Corps.

Yoon walked up to the stage with 20 selected members of the public as representatives ―including a start-up entrepreneur who developed smart farms, a policeman who helped apprehend child pornography traders, a Cambodian marriage migrant, No.1 world ranking Go player Shin Jin-seo, and actor O Yeong-su who grabbed instant fame in the Netflix hit "Squid Game."

Yoon's speech was preceded by a salute to the Korean flag, national anthem singing, a march by military bands and honor guards, and a 21-gun salute.

After the speech, Cheong Wa Dae was streamed live on screens as it was being opened to the public, as crowds who were waiting to enter from behind the closed main entrance gate flooded inside.

After seeing Moon off from the venue, Yoon walked back to the National Assembly's main entrance and moved to his office building in Yongsan, which was previously the headquarters of the country's national defense ministry until he was elected in March. Greeted by employees of the new presidential office that was relocated from Cheong Wa Dae, Yoon gave a hearty pep talk to the crowd before stepping inside. "Let's enjoy working together for this country and for the people. Are you with me?"


Ko Dong-hwan aoshima11@koreatimes.co.kr


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