President Yoon Suk Yeol met ex-president Park Geun-hye on Thursday at an event to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Park's father Park Chung-hee, who was also a South Korean president.
Yoon is the first Korean President to attend the memorial service to honor Park, who was assassinated in 1979 after nearly two decades of dictatorship. The ceremony was held at 11 a.m. at the Seoul National Cemetery, where Park is buried, just hours after Yoon returned from a weeklong trip to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The commemoration was also attended by conservative People Power Party Chairman Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, Floor Leader Yun Jae-ok, the party's innovation committee chief Ihn Yo-han, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, and about 2,000 other participants.
Yoon said in a speech at the annual event that the "can-do spirit" behind the economic growth that happened under the late Park must be cherished and remembered to weather the uncertainties, according to Yoon's office in a statement.
Before Yoon was elected in 2022, Yoon, formerly a prosecutor, worked with then-special counsel Park Young-soo to look into a political corruption scandal over the former President Park and her longtime friend Choi Seo-won, known at the time as Choi Soon-sil. Revelations from the investigation triggered a series of massive protests here, which resulted in the ouster of Park in 2017.
Park was given a presidential pardon in December 2021, after she was sentenced to a combined 22 years in jail by the Supreme Court in January 2021 for multiple counts of bribery, coercion and alteration of conservative party election. Park led the country from 2013 to 2017.
Thursday's meeting further suggests they have left their past differences behind, as the conservative party heads into a general election in April. The ruling party holds 111 out of 298 seats, and the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea occupies a majority, or 168 seats.
The ruling People Power Party leader Kim held a closed-door talk with Park in on Sept. 13 at her residence. Kim told reporters after the meeting that Park "responded positively" when told about Yoon's intention to meet her.
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