South Korea’s conservative incoming president, who has pledged to be more critical of North Korea than his predecessors, said on Saturday his government will continue reconciliation efforts with Pyongyang.
“There is no reason for North Korea to be nervous about the launch of the new government,” President-elect Lee Myung-bak said during a meeting with Singapore’s former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in Seoul.
“The basic thought of the new government remains unchanged, that South and North Korea should reconcile and maintain peace,” he said, according to a statement released by his office.
Lee, who takes office on Monday, will be South Korea’s first conservative leader in 10 years.
He has vowed to continue to seek reconciliation with North Korea but in a way that brings more criticism to the process. His liberal predecessors gave unconditional aid and concessions as part of reconciliation efforts.
Indicating his tough stance, Lee has named university professor Nam Joo-hong – a heavy Pyongyang critic – as unification minister in charge of relations with the North.
North Korea has not commented on Lee’s election since he won the December 19 vote.
The previous day, Goh toured an industrial park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong where South Korean companies run factories using cheap North Korean labor. The project is a symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement.
Lee, a former Hyundai CEO, said the zone would become more prosperous if North Korea opens up to the outside world.
The two Koreas, who fought a 1950-53 war, launched the reconciliation process with the first-ever summit of their leaders in 2000. But their relations remain strained over North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. (AP)
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