Seoul: Yoon Suk-yeol is set to be sworn in as South Korea’s new President on Tuesday, marking the start of a tough battle to avert an economic crisis, win the cooperation of an opposition-controlled Parliament and rein in an increasingly menacing North Korea.
Yoon kicked off his five-year term at midnight in the underground bunker of the new presidential office building in Yongsan by receiving a briefing from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reports Yonhap News Agency.
“President Yoon Suk-yeol expressed his appreciation for the hard work of our troops who are dedicating themselves to defending the land and protecting the people’s lives and property night and day, and emphasized they maintain a firm military readiness posture at this time when the security situation on the Korean Peninsula is grave,” the National Security Office said.
To usher in the new administration, a bell-ringing ceremony was held at the stroke of midnight in downtown Seoul.
Twenty representatives selected from the general public, including a naturalized citizen, a space scientist and a North Korean defector, rang the bell 33 times at Bosingak Pavilion.
The formal inauguration ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the National Assembly Plaza.
More than 40,000 people will gather at the inauguration ceremony, including foreign envoys, such as US Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.
Yoon will take his oath of office, deliver a speech around keywords such as freedom, human rights, markets, fairness and solidarity, and head straight to the new presidential office he fought hard to launch as a demonstration of his will to draw closer to the public.
Yoon takes over at a time when South Korea is struggling to deal with economic challenges stemming from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other factors resulting in the phenomenon of “three simultaneous highs” in inflation, interest rates and exchange rates.
The incoming government has championed “economic security” amid the growing competition between the US and China to secure supply chains in batteries, semiconductors and other key sectors.
The threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs looms larger than ever, as the country appears set to carry out its seventh nuclear test as early as this month, shortly after leader Kim Jong-un threatened to proactively use nuclear weapons, rather than possessing them only as a war deterrent if anyone attempts to violate the country’s “fundamental interests”.
Both economic security and North Korea are expected to feature high on the agenda of Yoon’s first summit with US President Joe Biden in Seoul on May 21.
Biden’s visit, set for May 20-22, will come only 10 days after Yoon takes office, and their planned meeting will mark the earliest-ever Seoul-Washington summit to take place following a South Korean President’s inauguration.