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New South Korean President Holds Political Legacy

  • VOA News

South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of ruling Saenuri Party waves to her supporters near the party's head office in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 19, 2012.

South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of ruling Saenuri Party waves to her supporters near the party's head office in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 19, 2012.

Park Geun-hye, who will become South Korea's first female head of state, is a longstanding member of the nation's political community -- and the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee.

Park is conservative politician, but she has promised to bolster social programs to aid single-parent families and get more women into the workplace in South Korea's male-dominated society. She has served five terms as a lawmaker and unsuccessfully challenged Lee Myung-Bak in the previous presidential election.

Park served as the nation's first lady for five years after her mother, a popular first lady, was shot to death by a North Korean agent aiming for the president. She held the role until her father was assassinated by his own spy chief in 1979. Her supporters say that time gave Park precious early experience in South Korea's political world.

Park Chung-hee was widely accused of suppressing dissent and abusing human rights. His daughter has said she regrets those aspects of her father's iron-fisted rule, but she remains disliked by many.

Park, who is unmarried, faces economic as well as political challenges in her new job. South Korea faces a large wealth gap and high youth unemployment, and North Korea remains a constant diplomatic challenge as well as a looming security threat.

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