On February 25, 2013, Park Geun Hye was made South Korea’s first female president. With the latest development, many have hopes that it will be a new era in improving the bilateral relations which were strained by her predecessor, Lee Myung Bak.
On the other hand, experts in Japan are unsure if Park will be able to deliver on such hopes. In Japan, she is often associated with her father’s achievement of normalizing diplomatic relations with Japan in the 1960’s. Park is also taking a softer line and appears more restrained than Lee. Lee in the month of August 2012, became the first South Korean leader to visit the Takeshima islets, which are controlled by Seoul. The islets are known as Dokdo in South Korea.
The trip was seen as a bid to fan nationalist sentiment, so as to restore Lee’s tarnished legacy by boosting the popularity of his party and his ultimate successor Park. Ri Sotetsu, the Ryukoku University professor and Korean affairs expert said, “Park is not a politician who plays to the grandstand. She won’t intentionally hurt the South Korea-Japan relationship”. For now Park hasn’t signaled any immediate measures to boost relations with Japan, but it is expected that she will make her move soon.