Park presents vision of unified Koreas at UN

Park presents vision of unified Koreas at UN
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye speaks during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on September 24.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye returns from her seven-day trip to North America on Friday after making her debut speech at the United Nations and signing a long-awaited free trade deal with Canada.

At the UN, Park presented her vision of Korean unification to leaders from more than 140 countries gathered for the annual meeting, including North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, and called for their support to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons.

She also pressed Japan by addressing the thorny issue of sex slavery during World War II.

Cheong Wa Dae, her office and residence, told reporters that the president has accomplished a wide range of diplomatic and economic achievements "in spite of political difficulties piled up at home" and has shown off her leadership on the global stage at the UN

Park urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, calling its nuclear ambitions the greatest threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

"The DPRK must make the decision to give up its nuclear weapons," Park said at the annual UN meeting in New York on Wednesday.

"The DPRK should follow in the footsteps of other countries that have abandoned their nuclear weapons in favour of reform and opening up, and choose a different path that supports its economic development and improves the lives of its people," the president said.

Park's keynote speech at the General Assembly marked her debut at the UN She arrived in New York on Monday after her state visit to Canada.

In a 20-minute speech delivered in Korean, President Park also called for international support to bring peace to the divided Korean Peninsula and the Asia-Pacific region.

"I call on the international community to stand with us in tearing down the world's last remaining wall of division," she said.

As parts of efforts to end inter-Korean division, she asked for global support for building a peace park in the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas. The North has publicly rejected the project.

"Building a park that embodies respect for international norms and values, and doing so under UN auspices with all the parties to the war on board ― the two Koreas, the US and China ― would serve the cause of easing tensions and peaceful reunification of the two Koreas," she said.

"A unified Korea will be the starting point for a world without nuclear weapons, offer a fundamental solution to the North Korean human rights issue, and help unlock a stable and cooperative Northeast Asia."

President Park also said wartime sexual violence against women "was a clear violation of human rights," a remark directed at Japan over the issue of "comfort women."

Korea and Japan have remained at odds on account of territorial and historical feuds. The issue of former sex slaves from Korea and other Asian countries conscripted during World War II has been one of the key sticking points in the frosty relations between the two countries.

In a separate meeting held before her return flight to Seoul, Park also said that Japanese leaders should face up to history and "take forward-looking measures to restore the honour of the comfort women while they are alive."

Despite her accomplishments overseas, Park is likely to face demands at home to resolve the protracted political impasse over the plan to launch an independent counsel to investigate a tragic ferry accident that killed more than 300 in April. She is also likely to face mounting speculations about her personnel choices.

Controversy has deepened over Cheong Wa Dae's vetting process since last week, after the suspicious departure of a former aide.

Song Kwang-yong, the former senior education secretary, offered to quit on Saturday.

The presidential office had said that he wanted to resume his teaching, but it was later found that he was under police investigation for alleged misconduct.

Cheong Wa Dae claimed that the office had been unaware of the case for the last three months.

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