December 20, 2012 08:24
Korea on Wednesday elected a woman president for the first time. Park Geun-hye of the conservative Saenuri Party won by absolute majority.
Park is the daughter of former strongman Park Chung-hee, and her win also marks the first time that the child of a former president has been chosen for the same job.
Park was ahead with 51.6 percent or 15.77 million votes, while her rival Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party trailed behind with 48.02 percent and 14.69 million votes.
Park is the first president of Korea to win by absolute majority in the 41 years since her father took the 1971 election with 53.2 percent against challenger Kim Dae-jung.
Park Geun-hye is also the first conservative candidate since 1987 to garner a double-digit lead of 10.4 percent in the traditional progressive stronghold of South Jeolla Province.
At a late-night event in Gwanghwamun Plaza, Park said her win marks the "victory of the hopes of the public to overcome crisis and revive the economy." She added, "I will be a president of the people who keeps her promises and opens an era in which the people are happy."
A security detail started protecting her around the clock on Wednesday night.
Park has had a lead in opinion polls over the last five years but suffered a slump when software tycoon Ahn Cheol-soo declared his independent bid for the presidency earlier this year. It was only when Ahn pulled out of the race that her fortunes revived.
Some opinion polls put Moon ahead among younger voters, but her strategy of targeting voters in their 40s and focusing her canvassing in the Seoul metropolitan area paid off handsomely. Park fared better than expected in the capital, garnering 48.18 percent of the votes in Seoul against Moon's 51.42 percent. She also trounced her rival in the central Chungcheong region.
It is the second presidential win in a row for the Saenuri Party, which despite the declining popularity of the Lee Myung-bak administration won both the April general election and the presidential election.
The DUP managed to regain some of its clout with voters after a dismal slump but is now going to have to look for a new strategy.
Park was in the lead shortly after vote counting started at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and her victory became clear at around 8:40 p.m. Voter turnout stood at a substantial 75.8 percent, the highest since the 1997 presidential election which saw a turnout of 80.7 percent.
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