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S. Korea elects first female president

By Foster Klug and Hyung-Jin Kim

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:01 p.m. HST, Dec 19, 2012

SEOUL » Ruling-party candidate Park Geun-hye was elected South Korean president today, becoming the country's first female leader despite the incumbent's unpopularity and her own past as the daughter of a divisive dictator. The victory sets up the possibility of greater engagement with rival North Korea, despite a controversial rocket launch by Pyongyang last week.

After liberal candidate Moon Jae-in conceded victory in a close race, Park said she will become "a president of promise."

Huge crowds lined up throughout the day, braving frigid weather to choose between Park and Moon, the son of North Korean refugees. Both candidates steered away from outgoing President Lee Myung-bak's (lee myuhng bahk) policies, including, most strikingly, his hard-line stance on North Korea.

Turnout was the highest in 15 years, and some analysts thought that might lift Moon, who is more popular with younger voters. Despite moving to the center, however, Park was carried by her conservative base of mainly older voters who remember with fondness what they see as the firm economic and security guidance of her dictator father, the late President Park Chung-hee.

Park will become the first woman to lead a country that still struggles with widespread sexism, and analysts said her victory would partly erase the bias that women can't thrive in South Korea's tough political world.

Park says she is open to dialogue with North Korea but calls on Pyongyang to show progress in nuclear dismantlement for better relations with Seoul.

Ties between the Koreas plummeted during Lee's term. Many voters blame the tension over the last five years for encouraging North Korea to conduct nuclear and missile tests — including a rocket launch by Pyongyang that outsiders call a cover for a banned long-range missile test. Some also say ragged North-South relations led to two attacks blamed on Pyongyang that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.

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allie wrote:
Hope her policies ease tensions in Korea.
on December 19,2012 | 05:27AM
Anonymous wrote:
Her mandate is from the people of South Korea; the beauty of democracy and universal suffrage!
on December 19,2012 | 09:07AM
cojef wrote:
A populist whose roots are in North Korea may have an easier time negotiating with the North. There certainly is no need for a country to be divided. Our WWII leaders failed to out think the Communist when negotiating the surrender of Japan and what to do with their possessions. Franklin Roosevelt was ill when he attended the Yalta Conference and may not have been at his best, or his adviser overlooked the problems connected with a divided nation. Stalin wanted a divided Germany and Korea to keep,the Allies occupied with turmoil, while it built up its war machine.
on December 19,2012 | 02:35PM
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