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Park’s swearing-in draws record 70,000 participants

Park Geun-hye will be sworn in Monday in Korea’s largest-ever presidential inauguration with about 70,000 participants.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso are among 22 high-level foreign delegates.

A record number of 35,000 citizens were invited in a move to stress the new leader’s wish for unity and happiness of the people, the organizer said. 
Preparations are under way for President Park Geun-hye’s inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly, Yeouido, Seoul on Sunday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Preparations are under way for President Park Geun-hye’s inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly, Yeouido, Seoul on Sunday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

The inauguration will be an occasion of lively diplomatic exchanges.

Aso is Japan’s former prime minister and current finance minister, while Donilon is one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s closest and most trusted confidants.

Donilon is being accompanied by Daniel Russel, senior director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council. Russel is speculated to succeed Kurt Campbell, the outgoing assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

From Beijing is Liu Yandong, a state councilor for education, culture and science and member of the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo. The 68-year-old politician is the highest ranking female official in China.

Moscow sent Viktor Ishayev, minister for the Development of the Russian Far East.

Other top executives include Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Canadian Governor-General David Johnston and Vietnam’s Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan.

Also among the attendees are 145 Korea-based diplomats led by Vitali Fen, Uzbekistan’s ambassador and dean of the Diplomatic Corps.

To reflect Park’s vision for the “grand unity of the people,” the preparation committee invited people from all age groups and all walks of life.

The preparation committed received more than 89,000 applications for an invitation to the inauguration ceremony through the Internet from Jan. 21-27.

Ha Dae-kyung, 72, a former miner who was dispatched to West Germany during 1970s, is among 3,000 specially selected citizens to attend.

He and his wife, who had been a nurse in Germany, returned to Korea in 1996, and their only son is currently serving his mandatory military service in Chulwon, Gangwon province.

Jang Young-jae, 23, an intellectually disabled student, also received a letter of invitation. He completed a barista course as a teenager and recently won a national barista competition.

Among the invitees, Ko Jung-won, 71, lost his mother, wife and only son to serial killer Yoo Young-chul, who murdered 21 people from September 2003 to July 2004. Ko, a devout Catholic, took people by surprise when he participated in a campaign against the death penalty for Yoo.

Other invitees also include the father of a soldier who died while serving with U.N. peacekeeping forces in East Timor in 2003, a 15-year-old school girl who was a victim of bullying at school and a 34-year-old Navy official who took part in the battle against the North Korean Navy near Yeongpyeong Island in the West Sea in 2002.

By Oh Kyu-wook and Shin Hyon-hee
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Korea Herald daum