The Straits Times
Published on Dec 19, 2012

S. Korea elects its first woman president Park Geun-Hye


SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea elected its first female president on Wednesday, handing a slim but historic victory to conservative ruling party candidate Park Geun-Hye, daughter of the country's former military ruler.

As leader of Asia's fourth-largest economy, Park, 60, will face numerous challenges, handling a belligerent North Korea, a slowing economy and soaring welfare costs in one of the world's most rapidly ageing societies.

With 85 per cent of the national vote counted, Park had an insurmountable lead of 51.6 per cent to 48 per cent over her liberal rival, Moon Jae-In of the main opposition party. Despite freezing temperatures that hovered around -10 Celsius, the election was marked by a high turnout of nearly 76 per cent, compared to 63 per cent in the 2007 presidential poll.

The election was largely fought on domestic economic issues, with both candidates offering similar policies as they went in search of centrist voters beyond their conservative and liberal bases.