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Park Geun-Hye

Park Geun-hye is the daughter of South Korea's former dictator, the late president Park Chung-hee. On December 19, 2012, Park - a Conservative - narrowly won the election to make history as South Korea's first female president. Born on February 2, 1952, she was the chairwoman of the conservative Grand National Party (GNP) between 2004 and 2006 and between 2011 and 2012 (the GNP changed its name to Saenuri Party in February 2012). Park has already served as South Korea's first lady, after her mother was killed in the 1970s. 

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EAST ASIA

Japan and North Korea move closer to reopening government-level talks

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 10:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 10:50pm

Japan and North Korea are moving to restart formal government-level talks, a foreign ministry official said yesterday, after a shift over the contentious issue of Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese citizens.

The step forward came as diplomats held informal talks on the sidelines of a two-day humanitarian meeting in the Chinese city of Shenyang between Red Cross officials from the two countries, the Japanese official said.

We will work for a complete solution with consistent dialogue and pressure
SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER

"They have agreed to make arrangements in an effort to reopen government-level consultations," she said on condition of anonymity.

Talks were suspended in late 2012 when Tokyo reiterated its demand that Pyongyang come clean on the abduction issue, which has long hampered efforts to improve ties in the absence of formal diplomatic relations.

The talks were officially called off in December 2012 when Pyongyang launched a long-range missile, drawing international condemnation. Formal ties with Japan could bring huge economic benefits to the impoverished state.

North Korea outraged Japan when it admitted more than a decade ago that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies in Japanese language and customs.

Five of the abductees have been repatriated to Japan along with their North Korean families. But Pyongyang has insisted, without producing solid evidence, that the eight others are dead.

Last week, the ageing parents of Megumi Yokota - who was taken to North Korea on a spy boat in 1977 at the age of 13 - were allowed to meet the kidnapped woman's daughter for the first time, in neutral Mongolia.

Yokota, who was abducted on her way home from school, has remained a painful symbol of the abduction issue. Her parents' meeting with their granddaughter was welcomed as a step in the right direction.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week hailed a change in Pyongyang's attitude, which has eased off on earlier demands for any meeting to be held in North Korea.

"We should firmly grasp the change and make it lead us toward a solution of the abduction issue," Abe said. "We will work for a complete solution with consistent dialogue and pressure."

In 2004 North Korea handed over cremated remains it claimed were Yokota's. However, Tokyo said DNA tests conducted in Japan proved the claim to be untrue. Her parents, aged 81 and 78, had previously refused to meet their granddaughter, now 26, for fear of being used in North Korea's efforts to establish her mother's alleged death as fact.

Japan believes Yokota and the other missing people could still be alive, along with others suspected to have been kidnapped.

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