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South Korean leader ignores swipe from Pyongyang

on March 13, 2013 10:10 AM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s first public, senior-level mention of South Korea’s first female president ended up being a sexist crack. The body that controls Pyongyang’s military complained today about the “venomous swish” of her skirt.

But despite that swipe, and a continuing torrent of rhetoric from Pyongyang threatening nuclear war and other mayhem, President Park Geun-hye is sticking by her campaign vow to reach out to North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, and to send the country much-needed humanitarian aid.

Public frustration with the last five years of North-South relations, which saw North Korean nuclear tests, long-range rocket launches and attacks that left dozens of South Koreans dead, is a big part of the reason Park is trying to build trust with Pyongyang, even as she and South Korea’s military promise to respond forcefully to any attack from the North.

Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, infuriated North Korea by linking aid and concessions to what turned out to be nonexistent progress on North Korea’s past commitments to abandon its atomic weapons ambitions. In doing so, he reversed past liberal governments’ policy of providing huge aid shipments with few strings attached.

Like Lee, Park is a member of South Korea’s main conservative party, but she has promised to find a middle ground by re-engaging Pyongyang through aid shipments, reconciliation talks and the resumption of some large-scale economic initiatives as progress occurs on the nuclear issue. Park has also held out the possibility of a summit with Kim Jong Un.

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