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(LEAD) S. Koreans flock to Park's inauguration ceremony
SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- Tens of thousands of people from across the country flocked to the National Assembly on Monday to witness the historic swearing-in of Park Geun-hye as South Korea's first female president.

   People from all walks of life stood in line to pass through security check points from early in the morning to watch the tightly-guarded event in which Park took the oath of the office to succeed outgoing President Lee Myung-bak for a single five-year term.

   A wide range of artists warmed up the crowd during pre-inaugural events held on the plaza in front of the Assembly in central Seoul, attended by about 70,000 government officials, foreign delegates, opinion leaders and ordinary citizens.

   The inauguration ceremony, which comes less than two weeks after North Korea's third nuclear test, was patrolled by presidential security guards, police officers and troops assigned to the capital city under an upgraded security status.


South Korean pop sensation Psy served as an ice breaker with his 2012 hit song "Gangnam Style," demanding the crowd jump up and down dance his horse riding dance.

   B-boys danced with traditional musicians and sung famous World Cup cheer songs, and comedians put on performances that illustrated the nation's past, present and future.

   At 11 a.m., Park, 61, arrived in a simple khaki suit with her signature updo, and the ceremony began with the national anthem sung by soprano Jo Su-mi.

   Following her taking of the oath to open "A New Era of Hope," the military band paraded and pledged their allegiance to the new commander-in-chief. Park saluted in reply.

   Park took office almost 34 years after her father Park Chung-hee, who ruled the country for 18 years, was shot dead by his spy chief in 1979.

   Former Presidents Kim Young-sam and Chun Doo-hwan along with former first lady Lee Hee-ho, the widow of late President Kim Dae-jung, sat side by side in the front row.

   Among the foreign guests were Tom Donilon, U.S. President Barack Obama's National Security Advisor; Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong; Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

   Citizens from across the nation descended upon the capital to see the historic event and tell the new leader their wish lists.

   Jang Hye-kyun said she came all the way from late President Park Chung-hee's hometown of Gumi, 260 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to see the new president.


"I came here with my nine-year old son to show him the inauguration ceremony," Jang said. "Under the new government, I hope I can educate my children safely and afford their education costs."

   Kim Ji-hye, who attends college in Seoul, urged the new government to prepare policies to alleviate the tough job market.

   "Many college students can't find regular jobs after graduation. I hope the new president puts more efforts into increasing jobs for young job seekers."

   Earlier in the day, Park left her private house in Samsung-dong, surrounded by hundreds of local residents who waved South Korean flags to give her a good-send off.

   The never-married president received two jindos, a traditional Korean dog breed, from an elderly couple as a present, shook hands with her neighbors and warmly hugged children.

   "Thank you for being understanding and warm neighbors despite all the inconveniences. I am leaving here to take on a greater responsibility," Park said with a smile. "I look forward to seeing you with a bright face five years from now. Take care."

   Park headed toward the Seoul National Cemetery where she paid respects to those who fought for the nation along with 35 government officials, bereaved families and war veterans.

   "I will open a new era of hope by achieving economic rejuvenation, the happiness of the people, and the flourishing of our culture," she wrote in a visitors' book at the cemetery.


After the ceremony, Park joined a motorcade and waved from her limousine to pedestrians on the parade route to Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul before attending an event to hear the voices of ordinary people.

   She changed into a traditional hanbok consisting of a long red top coat with gold embroidery and a voluminous blue skirt before opening a bag of messages sent from across the nation.

   Park picked three notes that called on the new government to solve discrimination against temporary workers, expand state-funded child care facilities and improve services for the disabled.

   "I will put utmost efforts into solving the problems of irregular workers during my tenure," Park said. "I will help socially underprivileged people do their work without much difficulty."

   On her way to Cheong Wa Dae, where she had lived as a child and served as first lady after her mother was killed in a 1974 assassination attempt on her father, Park said she felt a "sense of renewal" as she returned there after all these years.

   She left the presidential office after her father was killed in 1979 and began her political career in 1998 as a lawmaker in the southeastern city of Daegu.

   Unlike her predecessor, Park had the advantage of being schooled in politics from an early age by the general-turned-president, who was respected for rebuilding the war-torn nation but criticized by liberals for his oppression of the nation's nascent democracy movement.