President-elect Park Geun-hye pledged Thursday to put top priority on national security, saying North Korea's successful long-range rocket launch underscored the "grave" security reality on the divided Korean Peninsula.
Park also said she will try to promote reconciliation, cooperation and peace in Northeast Asia based on a "correct perception of history," a remark seen as targeting Korea's former colonial ruler Japan that has long been accused of failing to fully repent for its militaristic past.
"This election was held in the middle of rapid changes in the situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula," Park told reporters at Saenuri Party headquarters. "North Korea's long-range missile launch symbolically showed how grave the security reality we face is."
Regional tensions stemming from sovereignty and history spats in Northeast Asia and the global economic difficulties also weigh heavily on Korea, she said, adding she believes Wednesday's election gave her a mission "to push wisely forward through these crises."
"I will keep my promise to the people without fail that I will open up a new era of the Korean Peninsula through strong national security and trust-based diplomacy," she said.
Park, the eldest daughter of late strongman and President Park Chung-hee, won Wednesday's election with 51.6 percent of the vote against her opposition rival Moon Jae-in's 47.9 percent. Park is set to be officially sworn in as South Korea's first female president in late February.
Park praised Moon and his supporters for their "vision for moving the Republic of Korea forward." Though the two sides competed intensely against each other during campaigning, Park said she believes both had the same passion in caring for the people.
North Korea's successful rocket launch on Dec. 12 sparked concern that Pyongyang is closer to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Though the rocket carried a satellite, the liftoff was widely seen as a banned missile test.
Later in the day, Park is scheduled to meet with U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim and Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xinsen, her first diplomatic activity since being elected, to discuss security and other forms of cooperation with two of the most important nations for Korea.
The election illustrated deep social divides in South Korea along generational and regional lines, with younger voters rooting for the liberal Moon and older people supporting the conservative Park. Regionalism, long-denounced as one of the worst political maladies in South Korea, remained as strong as ever.
Park said she will try to heal the divides and bond the country together.
"I will try to cut off the historical loop, which has caused extreme divides and discord in the last half century, with reconciliation" and non-discriminatory and fair personnel policies, she said. "I will appoint people from all regions, genders and generations" so as to maximize the capabilities of Korea.
Park said she will push for policies to create more jobs and care more for the underprivileged to make a nation where "young adults gladly go to work" and every member of the society can "go comfortably to a warm bed in the harsh winter."
"I will try to share the fruits of economic growth together without anyone being sidelined," she said. "Doing that is the way to genuine national unity, economic democratization and national happiness."
Park began her first full day as president-elect with a visit to the National Cemetery in Seoul earlier Thursday under the same level of heavy security as the incumbent president is provided with.
She paid her respects before the graves of three former presidents -- Korea's founding leader Syngman Rhee, her father Park Chung-hee and former President Kim Dae-jung. She left a visitor's message that read, "I will open up a new era of fresh changes and reforms."
Meanwhile, outgoing President Lee Myung-bak instructed aides Thursday to try to ensure a smooth transition to the incoming government, especially in economic and security affairs, presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said. (Yonhap)