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
     Previous    
    by: Tommy from: TwoShoes
    December 19, 2012 1:12 PM
    Is no one concerned that her mom and most likely her dad was assassinated by north korea?
    In Response

    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    December 20, 2012 7:24 PM
    To callmekom. Do you mind if ask you who do you mean a president who is not a president?
    In Response

    by: callmekom from: S.Korea
    December 20, 2012 6:02 AM
    No, they were assassinated by South
    You'll never know how it feels to be in a country with a president
    who is not a president!(Park's father did things that can never be
    forgtten about)
    They were killed for good

    by: Michael from: Helsing
    December 19, 2012 1:01 PM
    Sad, indeed. Where are the men? Sad thing to see such decay that a worthy man can't be found to lead.

    by: gon from: south Korea
    December 19, 2012 10:50 AM
    I'm deeply ashamed of her who became a 18th president in this country. I'm at a loss for words. we have had to suffer from a corrupt president Lee for the past 5 years ,and now we have to endure this next president who is the dictator's daughter. Don't tease this country. Half of this country people never support her.
    ah~what a pity country! tonight all bar is filled with people who is stunned by this unbelievable outcome. I feel this silent winter is colder and crueller than before.
    once again! Of the people For the people By the people.
    Don't be so sad my brothers in this country! I can't help stoping to cry. sorry,my peninsula!
    In Response

    by: John Kim from: Yorba Linda
    December 24, 2012 9:55 PM
    I share your grief my friend
    In Response

    by: Kramer from: Phoenix
    December 20, 2012 8:24 PM
    or Gon from South Korea, either you support and be happy or jump off the bridge!!
    In Response

    by: Kramer from: Phoenix
    December 20, 2012 8:21 PM
    Hey Gon from South Korea...u sound depressed....She is now the nation's president. You ought to support her for the country...trust me. Be positive. She will do well and won't let you down. No matter what happened in the past, we need to move on and reach out to support. Congrats Park Geun-hye!!
    In Response

    by: Kom from: S.Korea
    December 20, 2012 6:08 AM
    Hey, I agree with the Lee part, but just because her father was a dictator who did thhings that can never be forgiven, doesn't mean
    that she is not a good president. If you hate her so much, why don't you go out there and change our country?
    In Response

    by: faith from: Paris
    December 20, 2012 1:37 AM
    I agee with you.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 19, 2012 9:44 PM
    I'm completely on the same page with 'sang'. I wanna say to you, gon, before you deplore the present situation, how about learning korea's history again, at least the part of her father's era? The word 'progressive' has quite a positive meaning 'in a dictionary' but in korea, I think, its meaning has changed in a disguised way to promote North Korea's ideology. Im kinda suspicious of mindset of people like you, gon.
    In Response

    by: Happy from: California
    December 19, 2012 2:43 PM
    I grew up in the late sixties and seventies in Korea where progressively, the country changed its landscape from poor to emerging economy. People were so poor, that as part of the "movement," we brought in bags of rice to school to help other students who would otherwise have skipped lunch meals. Altruism abounded, and a sense of community, good neighborly deeds were part of our daily lives. In short, people's lives were more balanced, and everyone pulled each other up. All this because of late President Park's strong leadership. Hard times required hard measures, and he was the man to accomplish all the things, on which foundation the country now sits. Now, the gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening in Korea.

    The balance needs to be restored. I am hopeful that Ms. Park will bring forth some of the principles that her father adopted in restoring people's wilted spirits. "Some" not all, as times have changed and she will face many new challenges. To "Gon" from South Korea: I pity you that you never got to live in a society where measured progress enriched public's lives, and the country as a whole became stronger because of it. To those who consider late President Park a dictator: You've been brainwashed.
    In Response

    by: Straight Sword from: California, US
    December 19, 2012 1:23 PM
    Such a narrow-minded and arrogant self-conceited Arseh--e with a lousy mouth as YOU have been obstacle to progress positivelly ahead for more than 500 years. The founder of Yi dynasty seized power by coup de'tat. She is NOT dictator's daughter. Her father was who founded today's economically-powered Korea and far from corruption. So many people died of hungry in springs every year in 1950s,60s. He ended it by supporting poor and farming people by 'Sae-Ma-Ul movement'. After his death, his political enemies became presidents one after another and showed how corrupted-to-the-core pigs they were! Korea was lucky to have general Park Chung-Hee, indeed! Hopefully, she would show the people her father's virtues caring people really and no corruption. Spread this to your neighbors & friends. Have positive thinking way. Arseh--e!
    In Response

    by: s from: U.S.
    December 19, 2012 1:10 PM
    stfu. likes of you know nothing about the economic development president Lee has achieved. If you like to measure the corruption, still it's way lower than what former-president Loh and Kim has contributed to the North Korea's nuclear creation aid.
    In Response

    by: Sang from: Korea
    December 19, 2012 12:45 PM
    Well, if you are ashamed, why don't you pack your bag and go up North. One thing people tend to ignore during the election is the fact her father - former president - led the economic growth in 60-70s. He was in powers for close to 20 years yet if it wasn't for him, South Korea is still living like a third world country. So stop whinning and know your history before start going on and on about how depress your life is... Unless, you are ok to forfeit what you have enjoyed in your life... grow up...

    by: charlie from: california
    December 19, 2012 10:32 AM
    Now S. Koreas as well as the north are allowing families with strings to power create dynasties behind the trappings of a republic. Monarchy is apparently in our DNA, But I prefer the European version not the Papa Doc version. Yes it's about women but then Cleopatra was a woman in 50 BC.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 19, 2012 2:56 PM
    This is to John, not Charlie...

    "It's too bad that the world has learned its political lessons from the US .Power and $$$ drive everything in America"

    You're acting like this is somehow an American-only phenomenon. Practically every ruler and/or ruling class throughout human history was driven by power and money. Not sure what you're getting at here.
    In Response

    by: john from: California
    December 19, 2012 12:04 PM
    It's too bad that the world has learned its political lessons from the US .Power and $$$ drive everything in America
    Comments page of 2
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