The first female president-elect of Korea promises economic democracy and the creation of jobs to open an age of happiness for the people
The ruling Saenuri Party’s candidate Park Geun-hye has been elected South Korea’s first female president. Her victory has a special poignancy because she returns to the presidential mansion, Cheong Wa Dae, as president, where she left 33 years ago after her father, the late president Park Chung-hee, was assassinated in 1979. Her mother also fell to an assassin’s bullet in 1974.
The president-elect will officially take office at an inaugural ceremony on Feb. 25, next year.
Park won roughly 15.77 million votes, or 51.6 percent of ballots cast. She triumphed by a margin of 1.1 million votes over main opposition Democratic United Party candidate Moon Jae-in, who finished the race with 14.69 million votes, or 48 percent of ballots cast. Vote counting was completed around 5:20 a.m. on Dec. 20.
Independent presidential candidate Kang Ji-won came in third after grabbing some 53,000 votes, or 0.17 percent of votes cast.
Park beat Moon in 13 out of 17 metropolitan cities and provinces, excluding Seoul, Gwangju, and the two Jeolla provinces.
Wednesday’s election was the first in which the successful candidate won at least 50 percent of the vote since 1987 when a direct presidential election system was introduced.
Park Geun-hye is set to make history twice through her election. She will become South Korea’s first female president and the first offspring of a former president to take over the presidential office.
Voter turnout stood at 75.8 percent, with roughly 30.7 million out of some 40.5 million eligible voters taking part in the election on Dec. 19.
The president-elect, in her first media conference on the morning of Dec. 20 following her election at Saenuri Party headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, said she will work towards uniting the country by settling all kinds of gripes and conflicts that divide the nation through harmony and peaceful policies.
“I will try to listen to all kinds of ideas and opinions including those from the opposition to bring peace to the country,” she said. She went on to promise that her personnel policies will be fair and she will use any qualified people regardless of religion, region of origin, age, or gender to maximize the national capacity 100 percent, which has been her hope.
The president-elect also said she would give consolation to her election rival Moon and his supporters, adding that both she and her rival share the same patriotism for Korea by working hard for the people, the true masters of the country.
Although Korea’s per capita income has reached the $20,000 level, the wives’ shopping bags are too light, and many young people need jobs. Park said she will try make Korea a country with plenty of jobs and no problems for eating by creating a society in which everyone lives well.
“No people will be left out of sharing the fruits of our nation’s economic success together, which is truly an economic integration and democratization of the economy and the people’s happiness,” she said.
“Since days long past, we have been able to keep the country together under the virtue of helping one another. And we will spread the spirit of mutual survival and handed down to us from our forbears to every corner of the country,” she said.
The spokesman for the Saenuri Party said the president-elect was to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Korea Song Kim and Chinese Amb. Zhang Xinsen, the emissaries of the two countries with serious impact on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia to kick off her diplomacy toward four powers. She was expected to discuss with them North Korea’s launch of a rocket and Korea’s cooperation with the two nations on the problem.
During her election campaign, she said the leaders of the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and North Korea, the countries that have close relations with Korea, have either changed or are in the process of changing their top leaders and Korea must conduct its diplomacy on equal terms with other countries and protect its territory, solve diplomatic problems, and overcome economic crises. She has not yet made any appointments with the ambassadors from Russia and Japan, the spokesman said.
Park was elected assemblywoman for Dalseong, Daegu in the 1998 by-election as a member of the Grand National Party, and was elected three more times in the same electoral district between 1998 and 2008, remaining the incumbent until April 2012. In 2012, Park announced that she would not run for re-election for her seat representing Dalseong in the 19th election, but for a proportional representative position for the Saenuri Party instead, in order to lead the party’s election campaign. She was elected as a proportional representative in April.
Due to the failed attempt to impeach President Roh Mu Hyun and the bribery scandal of its 2002 presidential candidate Lee Hoi Chang, which was revealed in 2004, the GNP was facing a certain defeat in the 2004 general election. Park was appointed as the chairwoman of the party and led the election efforts. In the election, the GNP lost its majority position, but managed to gain 121 seats, which is largely considered a great achievement under such inhospitable circumstances for the party. As the chairwoman of the GNP, Park helped her party make significant gains in local elections and actually obtain a majority in 2006.
During the campaign on May 20, 2006, Ji Chung-ho, a 50-year-old criminal with eight previous convictions slashed Park’s face with a utility knife, causing an 11-centimeter wound on her face, requiring 60 stitches and hours of surgery. A famous anecdote from this incident occurred when Park was hospitalized after the attack. The first words she said to her secretary after her recovery from her wound was “How is Daejeon?” After this, the candidate for mayor of Daejeon from the Grand National Party won the election despite trailing by more than 20 percentage points in opinion polls up to that point.
In addition, during Park’s term as the GNP chairwoman between 2004 and 2006, the party won all 40 reelections and by-elections held, which was largely credited to Park’s influence and efforts. This feat gave Park the nickname “Queen of Elections.”
On Feb. 12, 2007, Park made a much-publicized visit to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her visit culminated in an address to a packed audience at the Kennedy School of Government, where she said she wanted to “save” Korea and advocated a stronger relationship between South Korea and the United States.
Park has to deal with plenty of daunting tasks, including a low economic growth rate, facing the nation by ensuring economic growth through the expanding of export and domestic demand. President-elect Park’s government should draw up the 8th five-year economic and social development plan to usher in what she calls an era of happiness for the people, political observers and pundits say. The nation came up with its seventh and last five-year economic and social development plan between 1992 and 1996, calling for the expansion of housing for low-income and balanced national development through enhanced social security and welfare. President-elect Park should unveil an economic development plan suiting the times of convergence as well as the so-called Geun-economics which will bring hope and vision to people, they said.