Park’s last stint in the presidential Blue House was bookended by tragedy: At 22, she cut short her studies in Paris to return to Seoul and act as President Park Chung-hee’s first lady after an assassin targeting her father instead killed her mother; she left five years later, in 1979, after her father was shot and killed by his spy chief during a drinking party.
Her first weeks in office will be complicated by North Korea’s warning of unspecified ‘‘second and third measures of greater intensity,’’ a threat that comes as Washington and others push for tightened U.N. sanctions as punishment for the nuclear test.
That test is seen as another step toward North Korea’s goal of building a bomb small enough to be mounted on a missile that can hit the United States. Pyongyang called the test a response to U.S. hostility.
Park has said she won’t yet change her policy, which was built with the high probability of provocations from Pyongyang in mind. But some aren’t sure if engagement can work.
The economic aid and other benefits that North Korea would have received by ‘‘choosing electricity over bombs ... will be made much more difficult, if not impossible, for at least the next five years,’’ American scientist Siegfried Hecker, a regular visitor to North Korea, said in a posting on the website of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.
As she takes office, however, Park will be mindful that many South Koreans are frustrated at the state of inter-Korean relations after the Lee government’s five-year rule, which saw the North conduct two nuclear tests and three long-range rocket launches. In addition, attacks blamed on North Korea that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.
So far, Park’s transition to power has been rocky.
She began her first day as president with lawmakers deadlocked over her government restructuring plans, which include newly created or revamped ministries. Some of the people she has nominated for ministry posts have been accused of tax evasion, real estate speculation and ethical lapses.
Park handed top jobs to people with ties to her father, reviving claims in the campaign that she doesn’t fully understand her father’s complicated legacy. Park Chung-hee is both reviled as a dictator and human-rights abuser, and revered for leading South Korea from the economic rubble of the Korean War.
To help an economy facing weak overseas demand for South Korean products and record household debt that’s hurting domestic demand, Park plans to spend more than two thirds of the annual budget during the first half of the year, and announced an 18 trillion won ($16.6 billion) fund meant to aid debt-burdened South Koreans.
AP business writer Youkyung Lee contributed to this report.