Park Geun-Hye waves as she holds a bouquet of flowers after
arriving at the headquarters of the ruling Saenuri party in
Seoul. Park has been elected president of South Korea.
The daughter of a former military ruler has won South
Korea's presidential election and will become the country's
first female leader, saying she would work to heal a divided
The 60-year old conservative, Park Geun-hye, will return to
the presidential palace in Seoul where she served as her
father's first lady in the 1970s, after her mother was
assassinated by a North Korean-backed gunman.
With more than 88 percent of the votes counted, Park led with
51.6 percent to 48 percent for her left-wing challenger,
human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in, giving her an unassailable
lead that forced Moon to concede.
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 colour.
"This is a victory brought by the people's hope for
overcoming crisis and for economic recovery," she told
supporters at a rally in central Seoul.
Park will take office for a mandatory single, five-year term
in February and will face an immediate challenge from a
hostile North Korea and have to deal with an economy in which
annual growth rates have fallen to about 2 percent from an
average of 5.5 percent in its decades of hyper-charged
She is unmarried and has no children, saying that her life
will be devoted to her country.
The legacy of her father, Park Chung-hee, who ruled for 18
years and transformed the country from the ruins of the
1950-53 Korean War into an industrial power-house, still
For many conservatives, he is South Korea's greatest
president and the election of his daughter would vindicate
his rule. His opponents dub him a "dictator" who trampled on
human rights and stifled dissent.
"I trust her. She will save our country," said Park Hye-sook,
67, who voted in an affluent Seoul district, earlier in the
"Her father ... rescued the country," said the housewife and
grandmother, who is no relation to the candidate.
For younger people, the main concern is the economy and the
creation of well-paid jobs in a country where income
inequalities have grown in recent years.
"Now a McDonald's hamburger is over 5,000 Korean won ($4.66)
so you can't buy a McDonald's burger with your hourly pay.
Life is hard already for our two-member family but if there
were kids, it would be much tougher," said Cho Hae-ran, 41,
who is married and works at a trading company.
Park has spent 15 years in politics as a leading legislator
in the ruling Saenuri party, although her policies are
She has a "Happiness Promotion Committee" and her campaign
was launched as a "National Happiness Campaign", a slogan she
has since changed to "A Prepared Woman President".
She has cited former British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher, a tough proponent of free markets, as her role
model as well as Angela Merkel, the conservative German
chancellor who is Europe's most powerful leader.
NEGOTIATE WITH NORTH
One of those who voted on Wednesday was Shin Dong-hyuk, a
defector from North Korea who is the only person known to
have escaped from a slave labour camp there.
He Tweeted that he was voting "for the first time in my
life", although he didn't say for whom.
Park has said she would negotiate with Kim Jong-un, the
youthful leader of North Korea who recently celebrated a year
in office, but wants the South's isolated and impoverished
neighbour to give up its nuclear weapons programme as a
precondition for aid, something Pyongyang has refused to do.
The two Koreas remain technically at war after an armistice
ended their conflict. Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the
North's current leader, ordered several assassination
attempts on Park's father, one of which resulted in her
mother being shot to death in 1974.
Park herself met Kim Jong-un's father, the late leader Kim
Jong-il, and declared he was "comfortable to talk to" and he
seemed to be someone "who would keep his word".
The North successfully launched a long-range rocket last week
in what critics said was a test of technology for an
intercontinental ballistic missile and has recently stepped
up its attacks on Park, describing her as holding a "grudge"
and seeking "confrontation", code for war.
Park remains 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.
The biggest of all the chaebol, Samsung Group, which produces
the world's top selling smartphone as well as televisions,
computer chips and ships, has sales equivalent to about a
fifth of South Korea's national output.