News / Asia

South Korea Elects First Female President

South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party waves to her supporters upon her arrival to cast her ballot for the presidential election at a polling station in Seoul, December 19, 2012.
South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party waves to her supporters upon her arrival to cast her ballot for the presidential election at a polling station in Seoul, December 19, 2012.
Conservative Saenuri [New Frontier] Party candidate Park Geun-hye has made history by winning South Korea's presidential election, becoming the country's first female president-elect after defeating liberal rival Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party by several percentage points.
Interacting briefly with several media representatives on a large open-air stage in downtown Seoul, the five-term lawmaker and daughter of a former dictator vowed to fulfill every promise she made during the campaign.
By keeping everyone's support and trust in mind, Park said she "will definitely open an era of peoples' happiness in which everyone can enjoy some simple pleasures and their dreams can come true."

Park Geun-hye

  • Daughter of late South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee
  • Member of President Lee Myung-bak's ruling conservative New Frontier Party
  • Would be first female president in South Korea's history
  • Holds slight lead in latest opinion polls
  • 60 years old
After being handed a bouquet of flowers, Park left the stage to the cheers of her supporters. She gave no formal victory speech.
At a subdued Democratic United Party headquarters in another part of the capital, Moon Jae-in conceded. Apologizing to supporters, he called the defeat his failure, "not a failure of the people who hoped for new politics," and then offered his congratulations to the new president-elect.
Turnout 76 percent voter turnout was considered high, surpassing the two previous presidential elections despite sub-freezing temperatures across the country.

Voters, bundled in their thickest winter clothing and stomping their feet to stay warm, waited in long lines to get into polling stations.
Story continues below photo gallery
  • South Korea's president-elect Park Geun-hye, center, poses with an official certificate stating her election victory, Seoul, December 20, 2012.
  • South Korea's president-elect Park Geun-hye bows in front of the grave of her father Park Chung-hee, the country's former dictator, at the National Cemetery in Seoul, December 20, 2012.
  • Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party waves to her supporters near the party's head office in Seoul, December 19, 2012.
  • Supporters of Park Geun-hye cheer near her Saenuri Party's head office in Seoul, December 19, 2012.
  • South Korean opposition Democratic United Party's presidential candidate Moon Jae-in, second from left, shakes hands with supporters after he cast his ballot in the presidential election in Seoul, December 19, 2012.
  • Members of opposition Democratic United Party watch TV news reporting exit polls on their presidential candidate Moon Jae-in in South Korea's presidential elections, Seoul, December 19, 2012.
  • A South Korean woman with her son, tries to come out from a booth at a polling station in Seoul, December 19, 2012.
  • South Korean National Election Commission officials sort out ballots cast in the presidential election as they begin the counting process in Seoul, December 19, 2012.

After the results were known, a jubilant Park supporter, 56-year-old company employee Choi Duk-soon, said she is elated by the historic victory.
Choi says she is "thrilled to have the country's first female president who can heal conflicts due to regional and class differences."
The incumbent, President Lee Myung-bak of the Saenuri Party, was limited to a single five-year term. He was elected in 2007, narrowly defeating Park in a party primary race.
For Park, who is 60 and is scheduled to take office February 25, it will actually be the second time residing in the presidential Blue House. She lived there in the 1970's, serving as the country's acting first lady after her mother was assassinated by a North Korea-backed gunman.
The ever-present threat from Pyonyang will be only one of the daunting challenges she faces; Park is faced with widening income disparity amid a slowing economy, soaring welfare costs for an aging, and a rekindling territorial dispute with Japan.
During the campaign, Moon, who served as chief of staff to former president Roh Moo-hyun, said he would want to hold a summit meeting with North Korea in the first year of his presidency. Park declared no such meeting could take place unless Pyongyang apologizes for military provocation it has launched in recent years.
Park's father led a 1961 coup and stayed in power until he was assassinated in 1979 by the chief of his intelligence agency.
Park’s campaign said the first item on her schedule the morning after the election would be to pay her respects at the national cemetery where her parents are buried.
Youmi Kim in VOA's Seoul bureau contributed to this report.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: gon from: south Korea
December 21, 2012 5:25 PM
Thanks for your replies.

First of all I’d like to express my opinion about next president Park who have gone through rough periods without her will.
Her mother had been assassinated by who lived in Japan in 1975 during her father’s presidency ,and then she had lost her father as well after 4 years, in 1979. It goes without saying that she had a tragic story in terms of a private life. I’m also never against the considerate emotions of the elderly in this country.

But never confuse a private area with a public area.

The major problem occurred to us when she was determined to become a president in this country. Since she had become a Senator in 1997 by suggestion of conservative party,then for 15 years she has lived as a politician in this country showing her political opinions which were on thoroughly conservative side. But as soon as she became a candidate of president, she had to be faced with an unexpected,unwilling political questions. Such as,

What do you think your father’s regime was inevitable or should be not repeated again?
Are you willing to apologize to victims who had been unfairly killed by his father’s iron rule?
Why didn’t you pay any tax on your house even by now that former president Geon General had offered? and so on.

She sometimes avoided responding to some questions, sometimes maintained so passive attitude for some against being frank when she had an interview for her father’s legacy in public before.
What’s more she imitated lots of policies of liberal candidate Moon when the competition begun,especially about social welfare policy expansion I never heard from her during her Senator periods.

Many people who supported her said that his father was enough worth to be respected as a good leader in the industrial era. They allegedly said that her father save this country from extreme famine and poverty. So I would like to ask them that the anonymous people ,who worked hard for the longest time in the world in a poor condition and wage like ants during his regime,who are now my parents ,my grandpa and grandma with a rough hand,a bending back are also enough worth to deserve their cosy elderly lives with practical pension by the government?

Do you know how much the present elderly pension is in this country?
Do you know the bitter competition between the elderly to pick up recyclable garbages on the street all over cities even nighttime? Do you think I exaggerate them?

If she keeps what she promised to the people in this election,I would be proud of her in addition to my particular empathy.
But take a look at those politicians,professors,and officials who are close to her.
Most of them were opposed to even a minimum of social welfare policy in the past.
What’s more the leader group and its children tend to avoid even military duties with various ingenious frauds and they ironically emphasized too much patriotism and the potential danger of north Korea in public.

So how could I believe their optimistic prospect and justice?

I wish you must respect the anonymous people as much as you respect the dictator Jung Hee Park.

by: Hoa Minh Truong from: Australia
December 21, 2012 7:21 AM
South Korea people has elected a first female president, that shows this country's democratic growth. Unfortunately, the most communist states have not any female being into the national leader positions are such as Secretary General, prime minister, chairperson. Communist is sex race discrimination, of course North Korea is the worst human right in the world.
Hoa Minh Truong.
( author of 3 books: the dark journey, good evening Vietnam & from laborer to author)

by: Choe Daeman
December 21, 2012 12:43 AM
She is biologically female, but socially not. She is just "daughter" of a former president who conducted a military coup and ruled the country by force for 18 years. Her main supporters never support women's right. They are extremely conservative in gender politics. They just wanted her father's aura to come back.
In Response

by: karl
December 28, 2012 1:07 PM
If the new president was biologically a male, and he was socially not, you would have called him a "gay". People like you, always find something to hate with narrow mindset and biased standards.

by: Eun Chul from: Washington State USA
December 20, 2012 10:38 AM
I was born during the Korean War in Korea, adopted at age 2, returned to Korea 16 years later and lived under Park Chung Hee's rule. Yes, he was a strongman. But when I lived there in the early 70's people were just coming out of very painful and indescribable Third World poverty. President Park did many good things for the poorest people of Korea. My wife grew up in a village near Pusan and when I married her in the 1970's the village barely even had electricity. One or two lightbulbs per house. Water was still carried from the village well.

There were no TV's and no cars in that village then. I would suggest that those who criticize Park Chung Hee look back at the many photo blogs on the web which show Korea like it was in the 1950's and 60's. They will soon change their mind if they have an open mind. I am now a physician and have been back to Korea many times. I am proud of my country and for the contributions that it has made in making this world a better place to live. I salute the new President, Mrs. Park, and wish her the best in the future.
In Response

by: Kramer from: Phoenix
December 20, 2012 8:04 PM

I agree with Eun Chul. President Park Chung Hee was the one brought Korea today. Some people may call him as a dictator but we needed someone like him in Korea, and he werved for the People not for himself.
Korean people should never forget that.

by: Chad Delk from: Porterville, CA
December 20, 2012 8:19 AM
So many countries in the past few decades have elected or chosen a woman to be their president; prime minister; etc. It makes one wonder when and if the U.S.A. will ever have a woman as its president.
In Response

by: ipitydafu from: Aurora, CO
December 20, 2012 11:30 AM
2016 Chad

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 20, 2012 4:59 AM
Congratulations, Korean first female president Park. Korean dishes, Korean cultures and Korean goods are all very popular in Japan. A lot of Japanese enjoy visiting Korea every weekend because it's within a few hours' flight from anywhere in Japan. I think Korean people are honest, enthusiastic, dutiful and very talented nation. We can rely on Korean people because they dislike telling a lie. I'm sure Miss Park must be such a person. She must be able to solve domestic issues like income gap, corruption if exists. And furthermore I would like her to accomplish reunion of both Koreas. Which country of one tribe does remain having been divided after the World War Two?

by: Ed Mays from: Brick NJ
December 19, 2012 8:39 PM
The South Korea of today is not the Korea of yesteryear. If her father was a strong-willed leader it is not her fault. In fact a strong leader is what`s needed to deal with the nation`s problems which are alot fewer than in the past and also needed to deal with those paranoid leaders in the North.

by: Bob Powelson from: Canada
December 19, 2012 4:21 PM
This is good thing, she will make a fine president and she will be more able to confront North Korean excesses.

I lived in Korea from 2000 to 2009 and was continuously amazed at the ability of the country to develop and prosper and to maintian democracy.

I have Korean friends who are treasured.

by: mark k from: miami florida
December 19, 2012 4:19 PM
Good luck to South Korea. You have elected a talented person and I hope she becomes an "iron lady" like Thatcher was for England.

by: Pedro Bear from: Bearsville
December 19, 2012 1:53 PM
North Korea is best Korea
In Response

by: John Kim from: Yorba Linda
December 24, 2012 9:53 PM
No South Korea is best Korea.
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 20, 2012 8:14 PM
Comments page of 2

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