President Park Geun-hye on Thursday called for an end to the 70 years of inter-Korean division and Cold War tension on the peninsula in a New Year's message to the South Korean military.
"This year marks the 70th anniversary of (Korea's) liberation and the division (of the two Koreas) on which we should end the history of separation and the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula," she said in her video message to the nation's 650,000 service members.
Park started the first day of the year by paying her respects at the National Cemetery, accompanied by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and other Cabinet members. On her message board, Park wrote: "By welcoming the Year of the Sheep and the 70th anniversary of Korea's independence, I wish for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula."
In her message to the military, Park called on the nation's armed forces to maintain military readiness, calling it essential for laying the groundwork for peaceful reunification, as well as for revitalizing the economy and promoting nationwide reform.
The message was released at midnight on New Year's Day and a few hours before North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he was willing to hold summit talks with Park.
Cheong Wa Dae's response to Kim's message was not immediately released.
However, both leaders calling for a shift in ties raised hopes for an inter-Korean summit this year.
2014 has been a year of near-zero accomplishment on cross-border relations.
Early last year, President Park vowed to kick-start preparation for re-unification of the Koreas, calling it an "economic bonanza" for Korea and neighbouring countries. In her speech delivered in Dresden, Germany, Park proposed to provide humanitarian aid for mothers and newborns and infrastructure projects for North Korean people in poverty.
Despite her efforts, distrust between the two nations has deepened as Pyongyang has insisted on developing its nuclear programme, while Park has pushed the North to renounce its nuclear ambitions and improve its cruel human rights conditions.