It was a ceremony that featured a performance by one of the world’s biggest pop stars PSY. But, the inauguration of South Korea’s first female president will be remembered for much more than the Internet sensation grooving to his smash-hit Gangnam Style.
Dr Emma Campbell, based at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, says that the lavish ceremony in Seoul will instead be noted for new president Park Geun-hye’s increasingly cautious approach to engaging North Korea.
“I think that was a part of her speech that disappointed me the most,” Campbell told ABC News Radio just after the inauguration this Monday.
“When she was campaigning, she had spoken very much about trying to engage North Korea, to follow on from the likes of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun and their Sunshine Policy, which was all about cooperation and dialogue and trying to enagage with the North Koreans.
“We’ve seen the policy of the [previous president] Lee Myung-bak's government, which has been an isolationist policy, has not been very successful in trying to get North Korea to do what we want them to do.
“So I was very optimistic when she was talking about engagement. But, her inauguration speech has seemed to step back from that a little bit, and instead she seems much more cautious and is putting much more emphasis on North Korea acting in particular ways before she will engage.”
Campbell said that there were a number of other options available to Park Geun-hye if she was looking to deter the North from continuing nuclear tests.
“Certainly the policy of the moment of not speaking to North Korea and not dealing with North Korea has not succeeded,” said Campbell.
“There are channels and means that we can conduct dialogue and diplomacy with North Korea, either through the Six Party Talks and being a lot more willing to compromise to bring the North Koreans back to the table; they are other channels, quieter diplomatic channels, through Australia for example if it were to allow an embassy to be opened in Canberra.
“There are lots of quieter channels through which we can engage the North Koreans, or we can be very aggressive in trying to get the North Koreans back to the negotiating table through the Six Party Talks, but that will take some bravery on the part of the Americans and the South Koreans, to compromise a little bit on what we’re asking before we sit down and talk with them [North Korea].”