Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

South Korea's First Female President Innagurated Today. Will She Bring Change? (+Video)

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

South Korea's First Female President Innagurated Today. Will She Bring Change? (+Video)

Article excerpt

South Koreas first female president, Park Geun-hye, was sworn in today, taking the helm of the dynamic northeast Asian state at a tumultuous time both for the economy and for relations with North Korea.

President Park, daughter of a former ruler and a conservative, was voted in on a wave of frustration following five-years of the outgoing Lee Myung-bak government that saw a widening of economic inequality, curtails to freedom of speech across South Korea, and two nuclear tests by North Korea.

As Ms. Parks government begins to take shape, many are wondering if she will follow through on her pledge to oversee a substantial departure from the policies of the Lee government of which Park herself has been highly critical.

The members she chose [for her incoming cabinet] are reliable and have experience in government administration," says Bong Young- shik, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, an independent think tank in Seoul. "They are familiar figures, he says.

One name that has raised eyebrows is incoming Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. Mr. Hwang is a former judge and enthusiastic proponent of South Koreas National Security Law (NSL), which was enacted in 1948, after Japanese colonial occupation and before the beginning of the Korean War, which prohibits South Koreans from aiding, funding, supporting or otherwise helping "anti-state" organizations. According to a 2012 Amnesty International report, between 2008 and 2011 the number of cases where charges were filed in this area increased by 95.6 percent.

In particular, the government targeted people participating in activities perceived as being pro-North Korea.

The law's most controversial clause is Article 7 which demands criminal prosecution for any person who praises, incites or propagates the activities of an anti-government organization. Critics say this clause is vaguely worded and meant to stifle dissent; supporters say it is needed to protect South Koreas fragile truce with North Korea. …

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