Kim Dae-jung's inauguration as President of South Korea was strong on symbolism. Flames were lit to signify hope. Soil and water from rival regions were mixed to symbolise unity. Labour and management were praised for their self-sacrifice and spirit of compromise. And Mr Kim's one-time persecutors - former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, who were pardoned at his behest in December - publicly shook his hand. So the new president is a master of the conciliatory gesture, but his speech yesterday was also strong on promises. Some will be well received. The International Monetary Fund will like the pledges to build a healthy financial structure, attract foreign investment and free business from government control in return for a commitment to structural reform. Mr Kim's plans to boost tourism, develop high technology and invest in high-quality, low-priced exports are all sensible, so long as the country adopts the right product range. A pledge to develop self-sufficiency in rice and guarantee farm prices is a more dubious solution. Agricultural subsidies have left many countries with uneconomic production and unmovable surpluses. But, in the short term, agricultural growth may absorb some of the 1.5 million redundancies expected as the country's industry reorganises and workers return to the land. That, in turn, would reduce the burden of expanding social welfare. His proposals for diplomatic contacts and peaceful co-existence with North Korea were well judged, being combined with continued military readiness and a pledge of zero-tolerance of armed provocation. In rhetorical terms at least, this was the right blend of firmness and conciliation. As always, delivering on these promises will be more difficult. Mr Kim's declaration that political reform must 'precede everything else' seems to contradict his pledge to push democracy and economic development in parallel. For as long as his popularity remains sky-high, he may use the democratic process to keep up the momentum of economic restructuring. But once the pain of recession bites, a people 'respected as masters' may be harder to persuade. By then, a talent for wooing public opinion with symbols may prove the new president's strongest suit.