In her first National Liberation Day address, Park Geun-hye, the first female president of South Korea, expressed her expectations about the improvement of North-South relations while calling for a major change in the attitude about the past of political circles in Japan. It seems that the August 14 agreement to resume operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) gave her hopes. It also appears that she does not think that it is desirable to worsen the already-strained relationships between South Korea and Japan. But President Park made it clear that Japan needs to change its attitude in order to improve bilateral relations by firmly and categorically urging Japan to take responsible steps to comfort the victims of its wartime atrocities.
The President’s speech was titled South Korea: Its Great Journey Continues.
She expressed her determination to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula by saying, "I think that our independence and foundation as a country can only become truly accomplished when South and North Korea are united." She also said, "The two Koreas finally reached an agreement to prevent another shutdown of the KIC and internationalize the zone, which came 133 days after KIC suspension," adding, "I would like to take this opportunity to remedy the iniquitous practices of inter-Korean relations in the past and to develop bilateral relations of mutual prosperity in the future."
The President showed her willingness to lead the efforts to create the mood for peace between the two countries. She suggested the reunion of separated families during or after the Chuseok holidays, requesting Pyongyang to participate in the establishment of an international peace park at the Demilitarized Zone.
As for Japan, President Park reiterated that a change in its attitude is most necessary. There was speculation that she will deliver stronger messages through her congratulatory speech amid Japan's provocations against its neighbors, such as visits to a controversial war shrine and the revival of militarism. But she chose to restrain aggressive expressions while delivering necessary messages. Her choice was interpreted as indirect pressure that Tokyo ought to present a solution this time, since Seoul already conveyed its position.
The president pointed out, "Japan is an important ally in helping maintain peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia," adding, "It will be difficult to build trust in the future without the courage to squarely face history or a considerate attitude toward others' pain.” She also remarked, "I am looking forward to seeing responsible and sincere measures so that the pain of those living with the scars of history can be healed.”
She proposed that Northeast Asian countries, including Japan, China and North Korea, make a new order based on mutual trust. She called for the nations of Northeast Asia to join the effort to create a regional peace pact, which was already suggested many times in the international arena, emphasizing Korea's willingness to play an important role in laying the groundwork for peace in the region.