Park to become South Korea's first woman leader

 

Park Geun-hye will make an emotional return to South Korea's presidential mansion in February as South Korea's first female leader, more than three decades after she left it following the assassination of her father.

Park scored a decisive victory ensuring that South Korea's conservatives, who pushed through a free trade agreement with the United States, hold on to the powerful presidency for a second consecutive time after the end of incumbent Lee Myung-bak's mandatory single term in office.

Despite spending more than 15 years as a national politician and serving as the nation's first lady at her father's side, the single, 60-year old woman remains an enigma and her policy stances amount to little more than a series of campaign slogans.

Park's camp has a "Happiness Promotion Committee" and her campaign was launched as the "National Happiness Campaign", a slogan she later changed to "A Prepared Woman President".

She has promised greater "economic democratization" for a country that has achieved astonishing success in rising from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War to become the world's 14th largest economy, but where the rewards have been thinly spread.

South Korean economic growth recorded a blistering annual rate of 5.5 percent for decades, but as it has grown richer, that pace has slowed and it will expand by about 2 percent this year.

It is the world's fastest aging country and has one of the globe's lowest birth rates thanks, in part, to policies that discourage mothers from staying in work, according to studies by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

As well as economic and demographic challenges, Park will have to deal with an unpredictable and hostile North Korea, led by the untested 29-year old Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to hold power in Pyongyang.

 

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