January 11, 2013 12:31
The office of President-elect Park Geun-hye is making a list of foreign dignitaries to be invited to her inauguration on Feb. 25. Park met many foreign leaders on overseas trips in the five years in the 70s when she played the role of first lady to her father Park Chung-hee, and remains decidedly conservative in her affiliations.
◆ Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe
Among the greater powers, Park has already built a relationship with Xi Jinping, China's next leader.
Xi visited Korea when he was the party chief of Zhejiang Province in 2005, and met Park, who was then chairwoman of the Grand National Party. Their lunch went an hour over schedule, suggesting they got on well. Park aides claim that Xi asked detailed questions about Park Chung-hee's drive to modernize the country.
Xi is the son of revolutionary leader Xi Zhongxun, who was among the first generation of the Communist leadership. He invited Park to China three times, but she has not been able to schedule a visit yet.
Park visited China in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2008 and has since maintained good relations with other senior Chinese officials. She met outgoing President Hu Jintao three times and had dinner with senior apparatchik Wang Jiarui in 2006.
The president-elect met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he visited Korea as Liberal Democratic Party secretary general in September 2004.
◆ Merkel, Other Female Leaders
Park is friendly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She met Merkel, then party leader of the Christian Democratic Union, for the first time in 2000 when she visited Germany as a member of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.
Park, who majored in electronic engineering in college, and Merkel, who studied physics, have many things in common. They met again in 2006, when Park went to Germany, and in 2010 when Merkel came to Korea for the G20 summit.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard also asked to meet Park when she visited Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit last year. And during her visit to Europe as a special presidential envoy in April 2011, Park met Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
Ex-U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice sent a confidential message to Park when she was attacked with a box cutter in May 2006, WikiLeaks later revealed.
Park's office is expected to invite them and other women leaders including current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
◆ Ancient Lights
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's family and Park's have been close for 30 years. Lee's father Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore respected Park senior, and he and his wife have maintained a personal relationship with Park Geun-hye.
Park also has ties to former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger. When former U.S. president Gerald Ford visited Korea in 1974, Park welcomed him and Kissinger in the capacity of first lady. When he came to Seoul for the Asian Leadership Conference sponsored by the Chosun Ilbo in 2005, they met again.
The doyen of "futurology," Alvin Toffler met Park for lunch when he visited Korea in 2006.
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