Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Fos­ter Klug and Hyung-jin Kim

ParkGeun-hye, daugh­tero­famil­i­taryleader fromSouthKorea’sauthor­i­tar­ian era,is elected the coun­try’s first fe­malepres­i­dent.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Park Geun-hye, daugh­ter of a di­vi­sive mil­i­tary strong­man from South Korea’s au­thor­i­tar­ian era, was elected the coun­try’s first fe­male pres­i­dent Wed­nes­day, a land­mark win that could mean a new drive to start talks with ri­val North Korea.

Af­ter five years of high ten­sion un­der un­pop­u­lar in­cum­bent Lee Myung­bak, Park has vowed to pur­sue en­gage­ment and step up aid to North Korea, de­spite the north’s widely con­demned lon­grange rocket launch last week.

North Korean state me­dia, how­ever, have re­peat­edly ques­tioned the sin­cer­ity of Park’s North Korea pol­icy since she and Lee are from the same con­ser­va­tive party.

Ties be­tween the Koreas plum­meted dur­ing Lee’s term. Many vot­ers be­lieve Lee’s poli­cies drove North Korea to re­new nu­clear and mis­sile tests and to launch two at­tacks in 2010 that killed 50 Kore­ans.

The rocket launch made North Korea an is­sue in the clos­ing days of cam­paign­ing, although many vot­ers said they cared more about the econ­omy.

Park has said she is open to di­a­logue with North Korea, but she has also called on Py­ongyang to show progress in nu­clear dis­man­tle­ment. She has also raised the pos­si­bil­ity of a meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but only if it’s “an hon­est di­a­logue on is­sues of mu­tual con­cern.”

Huge crowds lined up in frigid weather through­out the day to choose be­tween Park and lib­eral can­di­date Moon Jae-in, the son of North Korean refugees. Both can­di­dates steered away from Lee’s poli­cies, in­clud­ing, most strik­ingly, his hard-line stance on North Korea.

Turnout was the high­est in 15 years, and some an­a­lysts thought that might lift Moon, who is more pop­u­lar with younger vot­ers. De­spite mov­ing to the cen­ter, how­ever, Park was car­ried by her con­ser­va­tive base of mainly older vot­ers.

They fondly re­mem­ber her fa­ther, Park Chunghee, dic­ta­tor for 18 years un­til his in­tel­li­gence chief killed him dur­ing a drink­ing party in 1979.

Much of 60-year-old Park’s pub­lic per­sona is built on her close as­so­ci­a­tion with her fa­ther’s rule. When she was 22 her mother died in a botched at­tempt to as­sas­si­nate her fa­ther, and she stood in as first lady for five years un­til her fa­ther’s death.

She has cre­ated an im­age as a self­less daugh­ter of Korea, never mar­ried, then a fe­male law­maker in a male-dom­i­nated po­lit­i­cal world.

Af­ter Moon con­ceded de­feat, Park said that she would ded­i­cate her­self to unit­ing her peo­ple and im­prov­ing their liveli­hoods.

“I really thank you. This elec­tion is the peo­ple’s vic­tory,” Park told a crowd pack­ing a Seoul plaza.

With about 98 per­cent of votes counted, Park had won 51.6 per­cent to Moon’s 47.9 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the state-run Na­tional Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. Park is to take of­fice in Fe­bru­ary when Lee ends his sin­gle fiveyear term.

No Korean woman is be­lieved to have ruled since the ninth cen­tury. Park be­comes the most pow­er­ful fig­ure in a coun­try where many women earn less than men and are trapped in low-paying jobs de­spite first-class ed­u­ca­tions.

Her fa­ther’s legacy is both an as­set and a weak spot. Older South Kore­ans may re­vere his aus­tere eco­nomic poli­cies and tough line against North Korea, but he’s also re­mem­bered with loathing for his treat­ment of op­po­nents, in­clud­ing claims of tor­ture and sum­mary ex­e­cu­tions.

Park’s win means that South Korean vot­ers be­lieve she would evoke her fa­ther’s strong charisma as pres­i­dent and set­tle the coun­try’s eco­nomic and se­cu­rity woes, ac­cord­ing to Chung Jiny­oung, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Kyung Hee Univer­sity in South Korea.

“Park is good-hearted, calm and trust­wor­thy,” 50-year-old housewife Lee Hye-Young said at a polling sta­tion at a Seoul ele­men­tary school. “Also, I think Park would han­dle North Korea bet­ter. Moon would want to make too many con­ces­sions to North Korea.”


Park Geun-hye waves to sup­port­ers. Her elec­tion as pres­i­dent could lead to bet­ter re­la­tions with North Korea, ex­perts say.

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