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South Korea Elects First Woman President
December 27, 2012
By: Rebecca Aaberg | Printer Friendly

On December 19, Park Geun-hye became the first woman elected to the presidency in South Korea.Park, the candidate for the conservative New Frontier Party, won 51.56 percent of the vote, while her opponent, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party, won 48 percent, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) reported. Voice of America noted that turnout reached 76 percent, exceeding the previous two presidential elections.

United States (US) President Barack Obama congratulated Park, citing the continued strength of US-Korean relations: "I look forward to working closely with the Park Administration to further enhance our extensive cooperation with the Republic of Korea on a wide range of important bilateral, regional and global issues. The US-ROK alliance serves as a lynchpin of peace and security in the Asia Pacific, and our two nations share a global partnership with deep economic, security, and people-to-people ties."

Both Park and Moon focused on economic issues throughout the campaign. According to Reuters, Park is “a firm supporter of a trade pact with the United States that and looks set to continue the free-market policies of her predecessor, although she has said she would seek to spread wealth more evenly.” Moon had campaigned on a platform to review the free trade agreement with the US. In her victory speech, Park equated economic revival with South Korea’s long-term success: "This is considered a victory for people who want to overcome crisis and revive the economy. I will never forget the will of the people who believed in me wherever I went during the election campaign. I will start an era of happiness in the nation."

The candidates’ family histories played a large role in their campaigns, BBC noted in its coverage of the election. Park, the daughter of controversial President Park Chung-hee, focused on “national reconciliation” and “economic democracy.”  Park Chung-hee took power in a military coup in 1961 and ruled the country for 18 years. In September, she released a statement apologizing for the human rights abuses that occurred under her father’s reign. Moon, the son of refugees from North Korea and former human rights activist, had promised to reduce tensions with North Korea and prioritize human rights and humanitarian concerns.  

Park will take office in February to serve her single five-year term, replacing outgoing South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, also from the New Frontier Party.

Sources:
BBC – South Korea’s Presidential Candidates

CNN – Park Guen-hye Claims South Korea Presidential Victory

IFES – Election Guide: South Korea

Voice of America - South Korea Elects 1st Woman President, Dictator Park's Daughter

 

 

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