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Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 18:12
Moon Jae-in sworn in as ROK's new president
By Agencies
Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 18:12 By Agencies

Newly elected Republic of Korea  President Moon Jae-in (center) leaves his house in Seoul May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL - SEOUL - Hours after celebrating his election win with thousands of supporters in wet Seoul streets, Moon Jae-in was sworn in as the Republic of Korea's (ROK) new president in the parliament, TV footage showed Wednesday. In his inaugural speech, he said he would visit Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), under right conditions and fly to Washington if necessary. Moon was quickly thrown into the job of leading a nation deeply split over its future and faced with growing threats from DPRK and an uneasy alliance with the United States.

The new leader vowed to sincerely consult with the United States and China to resolve the issue arising out of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.

The new leader vowed to sincerely consult with the United States and China to resolve the issue arising out of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
Shortly after taking over, he appointed the new prime minister, intelligence agency chief, presidential chief of staff and chief of the presidential security service. Lee Nak-yon, an incumbent governor of South Jeolla province, was named as the first prime minister of the Moon government.

Im Jong-seok, 51, was named as presidential chief of staff. He is a two-term lawmaker who served as chief of staff for Moon's campaign team in the presidential race.

Suh Hoon, a former vice director of National Intelligence Service (NIS), was appointed the spy agency's chief.

Moon, whose victory capped one of the most turbulent political stretches in the nation's recent history and set up its first liberal rule in a decade, assumed presidential duties after the National Election Commission officially declared him as winner. He will be formally sworn in at noon, forgoing the usual two-month transition because he was chosen in a special election after the last elected office-holder was removed by a court and jailed on corruption charges.

Taking up his role as the new commander in chief, Moon received a call from Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of ROK's Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed him on the military's preparedness against DPRK.

A short time later, Moon stepped out of his private home and received an emotional send-off from hundreds of residents, who hanged flowers on his neck and asked him to pose with his children. He then left with his wife, Kim Jeong-sook, for the National Cemetery in the central city of Daejeon.

After bowing to honor the former presidents, independence fighters and war heroes at the cemetery, Moon wrote "A country worth being proud off; a strong and reliable president!" in a visitor book.

After taking the oath of office at the National Assembly at noon, he is also expected to nominate a prime minister, the country's No. 2 job that requires approval from lawmakers, and name his presidential chief of staff during the day.

The election commission finished counting as of 6 am and said Moon gathered 41 percent of the votes, comfortably edging conservative Hong Joon-pyo and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, who gathered 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

"The National Election Commission, based on the first clause of Article 187 of the Public Official Election Law, determines that the Democratic Party's Moon Jae-in, who gathered the largest number of valid votes, was elected as president," NEC Chairman Kim Yong-deok said in the televised meeting.

ROK might see a sharp departure from recent policy under Moon, who favors closer ties with DPRK, saying hard-line conservative governments did nothing to prevent the North's development of nuclear-armed missiles and only reduced ROK's voice in international efforts to counter DPRK.

This softer approach might put him at odds with ROK's biggest ally, the United States. The Trump administration has swung between threats and praise for DPRK's leader.

Moon, the child of refugees who fled DPRK during the Korean War, will lead a nation shaken by the scandal that felled Park Geun-hye, whose criminal trial is scheduled to start later this month.

Without the usual two-month transition, Moon initially will have to depend on Park's Cabinet ministers and aides, but he was expected to move quickly to replace them with people of his own. He will not serve the rest of Park's term but rather will serve out the typical single five-year term.

After exit polls indicated to his victory Tuesday night, Moon smiled and waved his hands above his head as supporters chanted his name at Gwanghwamun square in central Seoul, where millions of Koreans had gathered for months starting late last year in the peaceful protests that eventually toppled Park.

"It's a great victory by a great people," Moon told the crowd. "I'll gather all of my energy to build a new nation."

Moon was chief of staff for the last liberal president, the late Roh Moo-hyun, who sought closer ties with DPRK by setting up large-scale aid shipments to DPRK and by working on now-stalled joint economic projects.

A big challenge will be US President Donald Trump, who has proven himself unconventional in his approach to DPRK, swinging between intense pressure and threats and offers to talk.

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