Skip to main content

Park sets ambitious goals for presidency

By Madison Park and KJ Kwon, CNN
December 20, 2012 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
President-elect Park Geun-Hye, South Korea's first female president, waves to supporters after being declared the winner on December 19, 2012 in Seoul. She will become one of several female leaders in Asia, as well as the world. President-elect Park Geun-Hye, South Korea's first female president, waves to supporters after being declared the winner on December 19, 2012 in Seoul. She will become one of several female leaders in Asia, as well as the world.
South Korea's President Park
Australia's Prime Minister Gillard
Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck
Bangladesh' Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Brazil's President Rousseff
Trinidad's Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar
Liberia's President Johnson Sirleaf
Lithuania's President and Denmark's PM
Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • Park Geun-hye will become next president of South Korea
  • She pledged to take care of citizens in a time of economic anxiety
  • South Korea is a strategic Western ally and Asia's fourth-largest economy

What does election Park Geun-hye's election mean for South Korea? Share your thoughts.

(CNN) -- Emerging from victory, Park Geun-hye who will become the next president of South Korea -- the first woman for the Asian nation -- pledged to "take care of our people one-by-one."

In a speech made at the headquarters of her Saenuri political party Thursday morning, she invoked a phrase coined by her father, Park Chung-hee, who also served as president in an era when he was encouraging people to pull South Korea out of poverty.

"I would like to re-create the miracle of 'let's live well' so people can worry less about their livelihood and young people can happily go to work," said Park.

Park, 60, will assume office in February, in a country grappling with income inequality, angst over education and employment prospects for its youth, and strained relations with North Korea. South Korea is also a strategic Western ally and the fourth-largest economy in Asia.

South Korea's hopes for new president
Park Geun-Hye's life shaped by politics
South Korea elects woman as president

Park won 52% of the vote, compared with 48% for her rival, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party, according to the country's National Election Commission.

Both the president-elect and Moon, the liberal candidate, had similarly moderate plans, addressing income inequality, reigning in the power of family-owned conglomerates and improving relations with North Korea.

"This wasn't the knockdown, drag out, left-against-right type of campaign," said David Kang, professor of international relations and business at the University of Southern California. "There's a surprising consensus about taking a more moderate stance."

"I think Park won by acting to the center. Her claims are that she's going to moderate many of the policies of the previous administration."

Park acknowledged Moon and his supporters Thursday.

"I believe there is common ground between myself and Moon Jae-in," she said. "We are both willing to work for the country and for the people of South Korea.

"Whether you were for or against me, I want to hear your opinions. I will try to stop the separation and conflict that has been going on for the last half century through reconciliation and harmony."

Park of the Saenuri party, won the highest office in a conservative Asian nation with traditional gender values.

Read more: South Korea's election paradox

Just because a woman has won the presidency, it doesn't mean South Korea has achieved everything it needs in terms of gender equality, said Kang, who is also director of Korean Studies Institute at USC.

"That a woman could be elected in South Korea is historic and important. At the same time, what you basically have to do is be political royalty. So I think gender roles are changing in South Korea. It's a step forward, but let's also remember how unique she is as a person."

President-elect Park Geun-hye bows in front of the grave of her father.
President-elect Park Geun-hye bows in front of the grave of her father.

Park is the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, whose legacy left the Korean public divided. Some claim he was a dictator who ignored human rights and cracked down on dissent, while others credit him with bringing economic development to South Korea. Her father was assassinated in 1979.

On Thursday, she paid her respects to her parents by visiting their graves at the National Cemetery in Seoul.

As in many other elections around the world, the economy reigned as the No. 1 issue for South Korean voters. Park has made ambitious promises to address those anxieties.

"I will create a society in which no one is left behind and everyone can share the fruits of economic development," she said. "I believe that only this can bring unity, economic democratization and happiness for people.

She also mentioned North Korea describing its recent rocket launch as a "serious security situation."

Park received congratulatory messages from Korea's outgoing President Lee Myung-bak as well as one from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Read more: Pocket, not rocket, worries Koreans

The United States and South Korea enjoy "stable relations," Kang said.

"Park is going to have to weigh U.S. as its main security ally and China as its main economic partner. That balancing act - keeping both with good relations - at some point, may become difficult," he said.

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.