Thursday, December 20, 2012

Korea's New President

   I swear, I was never much interested in politics, until Far East Asia came. Asian politics are quite different from usual, western one and after some bewilderment and shock, I came to one conclusion, similar to the one Indiana Jones said once: Nothing shocks me. I'm a scientist.
Korea ranks 108th in gender equality yet yesterday the country elected first female President.
I'm not jumping from joy though. It will be hard for her because of few reasons - she's a woman (and hello, we're in Korea afterall) and she's the daughter of general Park Chung Hee who held Korea in tight military regime.
Anyway, I gathered few articles presenting the new President of South Korea coming from conservative Saenuri Party.


Raised in Blue House, Park returns as president

Until yesterday, Park Geun-hye was most commonly described as the eldest daughter of the late strongman Park Chung Hee.

In fact, as a first-hand witness to some of the most dramatic moments in modern Korean history, Park could have been described in many other ways. She was the country’s acting first lady after her mother’s assassination in 1974, a five-term lawmaker, the “queen of elections” among politicians and an icon of the conservatives.

Yesterday, Park came out of her father’s shadow and won a title of her own: Korea’s first female president.

Born during the 1950-53 Korean War in Samdeok-dong, Daegu, on Feb. 2, 1952, Park was the first child of Park Chung Hee, then an army major, and Yuk Young-soo, daughter of a wealthy family from Okcheon, North Chungcheong.

One of the incidents that shaped her life came when she was a fourth grader and her father staged the coup of May 16, 1961. Two years later, he was elected the fifth president of the Republic of Korea and she became the eldest presidential daughter.

The assassination of her mother in 1974 ended her smooth life. She returned home from studies abroad in France and became the acting first lady at the age of 22. Park attended public events and greeted foreign dignitaries.

On Oct. 26, 1979, Park went to bed early. Around 1:30 a.m., Chief of Staff Kim Kye-won informed her that her father had been shot dead. It is widely known that Park’s first response was, “Is everything okay in the frontline of the inter-Korean border?” But she was extremely shocked by another tragic assassination of a parent.

She left the Blue House the next month with her younger sister and brother. Chun Doo Hwan, then chief of army security command and eventually president, gave 600 million won ($529,000 at today’s exchange rate) to her. It was the remains of her father’s private slush fund and Park said during a presidential TV debate earlier this month that she would return the money to the state.
Park has never married and lives alone.

Little is known about her life during the 1980s and 1990s until she decided to enter politics in 1997. The Asian Financial Crisis was the event that prompted her decision, she recalled.

“After the crisis, one question lingered in my head,” Park said. “I wondered if I would be able to face my parents after I die because I was living a comfortable life while the country was shaken.”

Eight days before the presidential election in December 1997, Park declared her support for Lee Hoi-chang, then-candidate of the Grand National Party, which later became Park’s Saenuri Party. While Lee lost to Kim Dae-jung, Park scored her first political victory by winning a legislative by-election in the Dalseong District of Daegu in April 1998.

Her landslide opened up a glamorous political path for the former presidential daughter and she served as vice chairwoman of the largest opposition party from 1998 to 2002. But she left the GNP and created her own party in 2002 after conflicts with Lee.

The following May, she visited Pyongyang and met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Kim apologized to Park for the failed assassination attempt of her father on Jan. 21, 1968, by North Korean commandos.

Park returned to the GNP in November 2002 after Lee agreed to accept her reform plans and she supported his second attempt at the presidency. He lost again, and the conservative party faced a crisis over a massive scandal over illegal presidential fundraising.

In March 2004, the party elected Park as its new chairwoman, just weeks before the legislative elections. At the time, the conservative party was in a crisis after its failed attempt to impeach then-President Roh Moo-hyun.

She led dramatic reforms - including the relocation of the party’s headquarters from a fancy building to a makeshift tent - and toured the nation to appeal to voters. By winning 121 seats, the GNP managed to survive under Park’s leadership.

She handed another victory to the GNP in the 2006 local elections, winning the nickname “queen of elections.” During the campaign, Park was attacked by a man who slashed her face with a box cutter. After her surgery, her first question was, “How are things going with Daejeon?” to check on the battleground electoral race.

In August 2007, Park ran in the party’s presidential primary, but narrowly lost to Lee Myung-bak. She supported Lee’s campaign but her relationship with the president frayed after her loyalists faced a brutal purge in the party’s nominations for the April 2008 legislative elections. In 2009, Park challenged the Lee administration’s attempt to scrap the plan to relocate the country’s capital to Sejong City in South Chungcheong. The government eventually gave up its effort and Park maintained her reputation as a politician who lives up to her word.
The GNP faced another crisis after its Seoul mayoral by-election defeat last year. Park took control over the ruling party once again as an emergency chairwoman and changed the party’s name. After pushing reform measures, Park’s Saenuri Party managed to win 152 seats in the April legislative elections against all odds.

She scored a landslide victory of 84 percent in the Saenuri’s presidential primary in August, becoming the first female nominee to represent a major political party.

Throughout Park’s campaign, the conflicted legacy of her father emerged as the biggest obstacle to her presidential ambition.

Park slid from the front-runner position in the polls due to her reluctance to clearly confront her father’s historical legacy. In September, Park admitted for the first time that her father’s dictatorial rule violated the Constitution.

She continued her campaign to shed historical baggage associated with her father by recruiting high-profile politicians who were loyal to Kim Dae-jung, an icon of democratization and bitter foe of the Park Chung Hee regime.

While Park pushed a reform agenda through the campaign, including various promises of “economic democratization,” it was clear at the end that she had to rely on the memory of her father one last time to appeal to aged, conservative supporters. On the eve of the presidential election, Park reminded the voters of the economic miracle that started under her father, quoting the slogan of his Saemaeul Movement in the 1970s: “Let’s live better!”

By Ser Myo-ja []

 Another one:

Korea elects 1st woman president
After neck-and-neck race, Park Geun-hye triumphs by uniting conservative base
위기감 느낀 그들(·장년층), 대거 박근혜에게 투표 권리행사 '깜짝

Korea yesterday was on course to elect its first woman president, the conservative ruling party’s Park Geun-hye, eldest daughter of former military strongman Park Chung Hee.

The 60-year-old scored 51.9 percent of the votes as of 10 p.m. yesterday, maintaining her narrow lead over liberal rival Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United Party, who had scored 47.7 percent at the time, when 57.3 percent of the ballots were counted.

Yesterday’s victory will put Park back in the Blue House, the nickname of Korea’s presidential compound, where she spent her teenage years and also served as acting first lady after her mother’s assassination in 1974. Park left the Blue House after the 1979 assassination of her father by his own spy chief.

Korean voters chose the conservative stands of Park in the midst of concerns about an economic slowdown or recession and security challenges by North Korea. While her opponent Moon promised major reforms of the country’s conglomerates and its established political order, Park’s pledges were more about stability and a “grand national unity.”

She also promised “motherly” leadership.

Exit polls announced immediately after the polls showed a dead heat. Park was narrowly leading the match against Moon within the margin of error in two polls.

Park cast her ballot around 8 a.m. at a polling station in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul.

“I will wait for the people’s decision with a humble heart,” said Park. “I am truly thankful to all the people who were with me during the campaign.”

She urged voters to cast ballots to start a new era for the country. Asked if she had an auspicious dream, Park just shook her head and smiled.

Throughout the day, Park stayed alone at home while her aides gathered at Saenuri Party headquarters to anxiously watch the ballot counting.

After the exit polls were announced, the mood at the conservative ruling party quickly became sanguine. Around 9 p.m., major broadcasters began naming Park as the definite winner and officials cheered loudly.
Park was scheduled to visit Saenuri Party headquarters and Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul later in the night to give thank you speeches to voters.

Voter turnout was 75.8 percent, the highest since the landmark election of 1997 that gave a liberal, Kim Dae-jung, power for the first time in Korea’s history. Turnout in that year was 80.7 percent.

The turnout five years ago was 63 percent, an all-time low for a presidential race. As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the number of voters was already higher than the total turnout of the 2007 vote.

Analysts were surprised at the turnout.

“When politics are stable, the turnout tends to fall,” said a polling expert. “It was a surprise to see the unprecedentedly high turnout.”

According to a KBS-MBC-SBS exit poll announced at 6 p.m., right after the polls closed, Park scored 50.1 percent while Moon earned 48.9 percent. The poll had a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of plus or minus 0.8 percentage point.

The exit poll was jointly conducted by the three major broadcasters. It surveyed 86,000 voters at 360 polling stations nationwide from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A JTBC-Realmeter poll also showed a race too close to call. In that poll, which took place Tuesday and yesterday with 5,000 voters, Park won 49.6 percent while Moon scored 49.4 percent. Its margin of error was plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.

Bae Jong-chan, research director at Research and Research said the one-on-one match between the conservative and liberal attracted voters’ interest and involvement. In past elections, additional candidates ran representing both the conservatives and the liberals.

Analysts said social networking services played a significant role in bringing voters in their 20s and 30s to the polls.

“In the past, they expressed their political interests by participating in demonstrations and protests,” said Kim Hee-gyeong, a political consultant. “This time, the youngsters treated the voting as a new form of entertainment.”
In yesterday’s election, the country had 40.46 million eligible voters, up 2.81 million from the 2007 presidential election. Of the eligible voters, 21.8 percent were in their 40s. The next largest population was those older than 60, who comprised 20.8 percent.

In contrast, voters in their 20s only accounted for 18.1 percent, and in their 30s, 20.1 percent.

Park has enjoyed higher popularity among elderly voters, while Moon is largely backed by younger voters. The simple demographics of voters by age groups indicated that Park’s supporters could outnumber Moon.

“I’ve done my best, so I will just await my fate,” Moon said after casting his ballot yesterday in Busan’s Sasang District around 7 a.m.

“Voting is the only way for the people’s power to triumph over political power,” said Moon. “We can only achieve new politics, economic democratization, a welfare country and inter-Korean peace through voting. If you were not satisfied over the past five years, change your world with voting.”

Ahn Cheol-soo, the former independent candidate who roiled the race before dropping out after failing to come to terms with Moon on merging their campaigns, cast his ballot at a polling station in Yongsan District, central Seoul, in the morning. Ahn asked journalists, “Did you all vote?” but did not answer any questions.
Later in the afternoon, Ahn left for San Francisco, as previously announced.

“I will remember how I felt when I first began and think about how I can return your love,” Ahn said in a statement released after his departure.

“The victor should embrace the loser, and the loser should accept defeat and cooperate with the new government to open up a new future for the country.”

By Ser Myo-ja []

 And two more:

South Korea elects first female president

The daughter of South Korea's former military ruler has won the country's presidential election, promising in a speech to her supporters to heal a "divided society".
The win over her liberal rival Moon Jae-in on Wednesday makes Park Geun-hye the country's first female head of state.
The office of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak congratulated party colleague Park on her win, even before officials had finished counting votes.
The 60-year old conservative Park will now return to the presidential palace where she served as her father's first lady in the 1970s, after her mother was assassinated by a North Korea-backed gunman.
With 92 per cent of the national vote counted, Park had an insurmountable lead of 51.6 per cent to the 47.9 per cent of Moon, her liberal rival, according to the country's election commission.
Her raucous, jubilant supporters braved sub-zero temperatures to chant her name and wave South Korean flags outside her house. When she reached her party headquarters, Park was greeted with shouts of "president".
An elated Park reached into the crowd to grasp hands of supporters wearing red scarves, her party's colour.
"This is a victory brought by the people's hope for overcoming crisis and economic recovery," she said. "I will be a president who fulfills in every way the promises I made to the people."
High voter turnout
The election was marked by a high turnout of more than 75 per cent, compared to 63 per cent in the 2007 presidential poll.
Park is the daughter of one of modern Korea's most polarising figures, the late leader Park Chung-hee, who is both admired for dragging the country out of poverty and reviled for his ruthless suppression of dissent during 18 years of autocratic rule.
Moon, who was chief of staff to the late left-wing president Roh Moo-hyun, is a former human rights lawyer who was once jailed for protesting against the Park Chung-hee regime.
"I feel so sorry and guilty that I have failed to accomplish my historic mission to open a new era of politics," Moon told reporters outside his Seoul residence. "I humbly accept the outcome of the election," he added
Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Seoul, said that Park had been able to appeal to enough of "middle ground" voters to swing the poll in her favour.
"This conservative candidate, who has really tacked away from some of the more right wing policies of her party, seems to have done enough not just to consolidate her own core constituency vote, but also to appeal to enough of a middle ground in this very high turnout election," he reported.
"This is still a divided country in terms of generations, party lines and regions. People have stuck to quite long-held party allegiances."
Engagement with N Korea
Both candidates' campaigns highlighted the need for "economic democratisation" - a campaign term about reducing the social disparities caused by rapid economic growth - and promised to create new jobs and increase welfare spending.
Matthias Maass, assistant professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, told Al Jazeera that domestic politics had driven campaigns for both sides.
"The issues include the country's economy, talk about measures to address a low birth rate, questions of unemployment, the wealth income gap, and social injustice," Maass said.
The new president will face numerous challenges, including a belligerent North Korea, a slowing economy and soaring welfare costs in one of the world's most rapidly ageing societies.
While both candidates had signalled a greater engagement with North Korea, Park's approach was more cautious than Moon's promise to resume aid without preconditions and seek an early summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Park has promised strong leadership that would steer the country through the challenges of global economic troubles.
"I have no family to take care of and no children to pass wealth to. You, the people, are my family and your happiness is the reason that I stay in politics," Park, who has never been married, said in a televised press conference on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera and agencies
 And the last one:

S Korea's Park vows more diplomacy with North

 President-elect says North Korean missile launch is a major security concern that underlines the urgency of diplomacy.
South Korea's President-elect Park Geun-hye has said that North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket last week is a major security concern that underlines the urgency for more diplomacy with its communist neighbour. 
"North Korea's long-range missile launch showed how grave the security reality is that we are faced with," Park said at a press conference on Thursday, a day after she won a historic election, which made her the country's first female leader.  
"I will definitely keep my promise to open a new era of the Korean peninsula through strong security and diplomacy on the basis of mutual trust," the 60-year old conservative leader said. 
During the campaign, both Park and her main challenger Moon Jae-in offered competing commitment to improve ties with Pyongyang and its new leader Kim Jong-un. 
'Very principled'
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Chaibong Hahm of the Asian Institute for Policy Studies said he was confident Park would follow up on her election promise.  
"She's been very principled, resolute, and once she says she's going to do something, she always keeps to it," Hahm said. "Sometimes to the detriment of public support for her."
At the same time, Park said she would not tolerate the North's nuclear weapons programme, reflecting what political analyst Moon Chung-in described to Al Jazeera as the new leader's more cautious policy for negotiations based on some "pre-conditions".
On the face of it, North Korea is in no mood for compromise, according to Reuters news agency analysts Jack Kim and David Chance.
"It has declared it will not ditch its nuclear weapons capacity, which it recently termed 'treasured'," Kim and Chance wrote.
"It pushed ahead with a rocket launch that is banned under UN resolutions imposed in the wake of its 2006 and 2009
nuclear tests as the South got ready to vote."
Park herself has become a target for Pyongyang's propaganda machine which has denounced Lee's five year rule as bringing "nightmare, despair, (and) catastrophe".
Diplomatic thaw
In 2002, during a thaw in relations, Park met Kim Jong-il, the father of the latest Kim to rule the isolated state that in
2010 sank a South Korean naval vessel and shelled a South Korean island.
When she met him, Park declared the man - who later propelled North Korea to become what it calls a "nuclear weapons power" - to be someone "who would keep his word".
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Kwang Ho-chun, of the University of Central Lancashire, said Park's previous meeting with North Korean officials could be crucial in future talks.
"She is only one of the few conservative politicians in South Korea who already met North Korean leaders," Kwang said.
"So that puts her in a better position than the outgoing president [Lee Myung-bak]", who alienated the North with a hardline stance, Kwang added.
Still there is lingering mistrust as Park's own mother, Yuk Young-soo died at the age of 49 in 1974 from the bullet of a pro-North Korean assassin meant for her husband, military dictator Park Chung-hee.
Source: Aljazeera news
 Pictures: JoongAngDaily