SEOUL, South Korea – Park Geun-hye, daughter of a divisive military strongman from South Korea’s authoritarian era, was elected the country’s first female president Wednesday, a landmark win that could mean a new drive to start talks with rival North Korea.
After five years of high tension under unpopular incumbent Lee Myung-bak, Park has vowed to pursue engagement and step up aid to North Korea, despite the latter’s widely condemned long-range rocket launch last week.
North Korean state media, however, have repeatedly questioned the sincerity of Park’s North Korea policy since she and Lee are from the same conservative party.
Ties between the Koreas plummeted during Lee’s term. Many voters believe Lee’s policies drove North Korea to renew nuclear and missile tests and to launch two attacks in 2010 that killed 50 Koreans.
The rocket launch made North Korea an issue in the closing days of campaigning, although many voters said they cared more about the economy.