South Korea has elected its first female president in a clear victory for conservative Park Geun-Hye, the daughter of the country’s former dictator.
With more than 70 percent of votes counted so far, the 60-year old Park took almost 52 percent, over 48 percent for her left-wing rival, human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in.
Though an official announcement has not been made yet, incumbent president Lee Myung-bak called Park to concede and congratulate her for the victory.
“I congratulate you on the victory, the path to which you faced many obstacles to overcome,” Lee said.
Moon Jae-in has publicly acknowledged her defeat.
Park, the leader of the New Frontier Party (NFP), addressed her joyous campaign staff and supporters, who gathered at the party’s headquarters following her victory, cheering and waving the South Korean flag.
“This is a victory brought by the people’s hope for overcoming crisis and economic recovery,” she said, addressing a cheering crowd in central Seoul. “I will be a president who fulfills in every way the promises I made to the people.”
Despite freezing temperatures the election saw a significant turnout, with more than 75 percent of voters casting their ballots – 12 percent higher than the previous presidential election in 2007.
Park will take her seat in the presidential palace for a five-year term starting in February. She has become not only the first female president of the male-dominated nation, but also the first to be related to a former leader.
Her father, Park Chung-Hee, was admired and praised for dragging the country out of overwhelming poverty, but also widely criticized for suppressing dissent during his 18-year military rule.