The daughter of South Korea's
former military ruler has won the country's
presidential election, promising in a speech to
her supporters to heal a "divided society". The
win over her liberal rival Moon Jae-in on
Wednesday makes Park Geun-hye the country's first
female head of state.
The office of South
Korean President Lee Myung-bak congratulated party
colleague Park on her win, even before officials
had finished counting votes. The 60-year old
conservative Park will now return to the
presidential palace where she served as her
father's first lady in the 1970s, after her mother
was assassinated by a North Korea-backed gunman.
With 92% of the national vote counted,
Park had an
insurmountable lead of 51.6%
to the 47.9% of Moon, her liberal rival, according
to the country's election commission. The election
was marked by a high turnout of more than 75%,
compared to 63% in the 2007 presidential poll.
Her raucous, jubilant supporters braved
sub-zero temperatures to chant her name and wave
South Korean flags outside her house. When she
reached her party headquarters, Park was greeted
with shouts of "president".
An elated Park
reached into the crowd to grasp hands of
supporters wearing red scarves, her party's color.
"This is a victory brought by the people's
hope for overcoming crisis and economic recovery,"
she said. "I will be a president who fulfills in
every way the promises I made to the people."
Park is the daughter of one of modern
Korea's most polarizing figures, the late leader
Park Chung-hee, who is both admired for dragging
the country out of poverty and reviled for his
ruthless suppression of dissent during 18 years of
Moon, who was chief of
staff to the late left-wing president Roh
Moo-hyun, is a former human rights lawyer who was
once jailed for protesting against the Park
"I feel so sorry and
guilty that I have failed to accomplish my
historic mission to open a new era of politics,"
Moon told reporters outside his Seoul residence.
"I humbly accept the outcome of the election."
Al-Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from
Seoul, said Park had been able to appeal to enough
of "middle ground" voters to swing the poll in her
"This conservative candidate, who
has really tacked away from some of the more
right-wing policies of her party, seems to have
done enough not just to consolidate her own core
constituency vote, but also to appeal to enough of
a middle ground in this very high turnout
election," he reported. "This is still a divided
country in terms of generations, party lines and
regions. People have stuck to quite long-held
North Korea Both candidates' campaigns
highlighted the need for "economic
democratization" - a campaign term about reducing
the social disparities caused by rapid economic
growth - and promised to create new jobs and
increase welfare spending.
assistant professor of international relations at
Yonsei University in Seoul, told Al-Jazeera that
domestic politics had driven campaigns for both
"The issues include the country's
economy, talk about measures to address a low
birth rate, questions of unemployment, the wealth
income gap, and social injustice," Maass said.
The new president will face numerous
challenges, including a belligerent North Korea, a
slowing economy and soaring welfare costs in one
of the world's most rapidly aging societies. While
both candidates had signaled a greater engagement
with North Korea, Park's approach was more
cautious than Moon's promise to resume aid without
preconditions and seek an early summit with North
Korean leader Kim Jong-eun.
promised strong leadership that would steer the
country through the challenges of global economic
"I have no family to take care
of and no children to pass wealth to. You, the
people, are my family and your happiness is the
reason that I stay in politics," Park, who has
never been married, said in a televised press
conference on Tuesday.