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(4th LD) Park vows to put top priority on national security
(ATTN: UPDATES with Park meeting with envoys in paras 9-15, likely to meet with Lee next week in last 3 paras)
SEOUL, Dec. 20 (Yonhap) -- 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.

  
South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye (R) meets U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim in Seoul on Dec. 20, 2012 (Yonhap)


"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 South Korea, she said, adding she believes Wednesday's election gave her a mission "to push wisely forward through these crises."

  
South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye meets Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xinsen in Seoul on Dec. 20, 2012 (Yonhap)



"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.

  
South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye meets Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho in Seoul on Dec. 20, 2012 (Yonhap)


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 held private meetings with U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xinsen, Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho and Russian Ambassador Konstantin Vnukov, her first diplomatic activity since being elected.

   The top envoys offered congratulations to Park, and she stressed to them the importance of the countries working closely together to resolve security tensions in the wake of the North's rocket launch.

  
South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye meets Russian Ambassador Konstantin Vnukov in Seoul on Dec. 20, 2012 (Yonhap)


In the meeting with the U.S. ambassador, Park expressed gratitude for the congratulatory statement from President Barack Obama and extended her own congratulations to Obama on his reelection last month.

   Park also expressed sympathy over last week's school massacre in the U.S.

   Kim said Obama looks forward to meeting with Park, and Park responded that she also hopes to meet and talk with Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the future of relations between the two countries.

   Chinese Ambassador Zhang delivered personal letters from President Hu Jintao and his successor Xi Jinping. He also said Park is a long-time friend of China and he believes the cooperative partnership between the two countries will make big progress under Park.

   Park extended greetings to the two leaders, saying that Hu has demonstrated excellent leadership over the last decade and that she has a fond memory of the incoming leader Xi as she had a useful meeting with him in Seoul in 2005.

  
President-elect Park Geun-hye (C) visits the National Cemetery in Seoul on Dec. 20, 2012. (Yonhap)


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 South 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 -- South 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."

   Park also visited the graves just outside Seoul of two aides killed in a car crash during a campaign trip early this month and stopped by a hospital to visit a photographer injured seriously in the accident.

   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.

   Presidential officials said they are trying to set up a meeting between Lee and Park.

   "We have not yet set a specific schedule, but the meeting is expected to take place sometime next week," an official said.

   Earlier in the day, the presidential chief of staff, Ha Kum-loul, and senior political secretary Lee Dal-gon visited Park to convey congratulations from Lee and discuss other issues, officials said.

  (END)
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