Park wins South Korea presidency, to be first woman leader

Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:37am EST
 
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By Jane Chung and Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - The daughter of a former military ruler won South Korea's presidential election on Wednesday and will become the country's first female leader, saying she would work to heal a divided society.

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 color.

"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 growth.

She is unmarried and has no children, saying that her life will be devoted to her country.   Continued...

 
South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye (bottom C) of conservative and right wing ruling Saenuri Party waves to supporters during an election campaign rally in front of a railway station in Busan, about 420 km (261 miles) southeast of Seoul, December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji