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South Korea's Park nominated for presidency
Park Geun-hye, daughter of assassinated president, becomes first woman chosen as a major party's presidential candidate.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2012 20:47
Park Geun-hye is the daughter of Park Chung-Hee, accused of widespread rights abuses during his rule [Reuters]

The daughter of an assassinated dictator has been selected as the presidential candidate for South Korea's ruling New Frontier party.

Monday's landslide 84 per cent vote saw veteran politician Park Geun-hye, daughter of ex-president Park Chung-hee, become the first woman chosen to run for the post by a major political party.

Park accepted the party's nomination, promising to secure the presidency and create a country "full of dreams and
hope". 

With the country plagued by a growing wealth gap and high youth unemployment, Park said she would work to improve welfare schemes and create jobs while committing herself to "economic democratisation".

The 60-year-old politician promised to make a clean and transparent government, eradicate corruption that has tarnished Lee's administration, and safeguard the nation against external threats.

She cited North Korea's "provocations and nuclear threats" as well as territorial disputes with other countries, an apparent reference to the row with Japan over ownership of islands in the Sea of Japan.

"At this time of crisis, we need a prepared leader," she said, adding she would open a new era of peace and cooperation in northeast Asia.

Aristocratic figure

Opinion polls show her as current favourite to win the presidency in the December 19 vote.

Park previously lost out to Lee Myung-bak in the party's 2007 primary. Lee went on to become president, but the country's leaders are restricted to a single five-year term.

Park's father seized power in a coup in 1961 and was assassinated by his own spy chief in 1979. 

Her father won wide respect for transforming the poor war-ravaged nation into an economic juggernaut, but is also reviled in some quarters for his human rights abuses.

Park Geun-hye's mother was also killed by a gunman, a pro-North Korean agent who shot the first lady in 1974 while aiming for the president.

Supporters praise Park for what they see as her calm and principled leadership. Opponents portray her as aristocratic and aloof.

"It's not easy for her to win broad support because of her conservative image," Kookmin University professor Cho Choong-Bin told the AFP news agency.

Opinion polls

Ruling party sources quoted by Yonhap news agency said there will now be a concerted effort to increase Park's public exposure to improve her image and showcase her policies.

"The public already considers Park as a politician who adheres to principles and is trustworthy, so Saenuri is expected to capitalise on these attributes in the future," said Mok Jin-whyu, a professor at Seoul's Kookmin University, referring to the party by its Korean name.

An opinion survey in Monday's Joong Ang Ilbo newspaper gave her 38.8 per cent support, followed by 27.1 per cent for software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo, an independent who has not officially declared his candidacy.

Moon Jae-In, the likely candidate of the left-leaning main opposition Democratic United Party, was third at 8.6 per cent. That party will select its candidate next month.

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