Park Geun-hye is the daughter of South Korea's former dictator, the late president Park Chung-hee. On December 19, 2012, Park - a Conservative - narrowly won the election to make history as South Korea's first female president. Born on February 2, 1952, she was the chairwoman of the conservative Grand National Party (GNP) between 2004 and 2006 and between 2011 and 2012 (the GNP changed its name to Saenuri Party in February 2012). Park has already served as South Korea's first lady, after her mother was killed in the 1970s.
South Korea's new president is sure to feel stiff north winds
Donald Kirk sees the presidency of Park Geun-hye in South Korea as one of measured toughness towards the North, which will surely be tested
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The election of Park Geun-hye as president of South Korea completes the transition of power in northeast Asia that began with the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il slightly more than one year ago. Now, besides having a new leader of North Korea in the form of his son, Kim Jong-un, we have the rise of new leadership in China and a conservative about to take over in Japan.
In a worst-case scenario, these leaders could deepen a regional confrontation that's reaching crisis proportions. Park, after defeating a liberal foe whose dream was to return to the discredited "sunshine policy" of reconciliation with North Korea, signalled hopes for renewing dialogue conditioned on "strong national security".
Thus she's throwing down the gauntlet before Kim Jong-un and those around him who may be pulling the strings. They will want to test the resolve of the woman whose father, Park Chung-hee, ruled the South for 18 years with an iron fist before his assassination in 1979.
Park is not likely to revive the stern policies of her father, for whose legacy of harshness she apologised profusely during her campaign. Nor will she perpetuate the strictly hardline policy of outgoing president Lee Myung-bak, who cut off all aid to North Korea at the outset of his administration in 2008.
Park will not, however, consider resumption of the massive doses of food and fertiliser shipped annually to the North during the decade of the sunshine policy, initiated by Kim Dae-jung. The most the North can expect from her is "humanitarian aid" to help feed its perpetually famished people, the amount keyed to the North's response.
The ideal response would be for the North to stop the long-range missile tests and give up its nuclear programme as solemnly agreed in 2007 after lengthy six-party talks chaired by China and including the United States, Japan and Russia plus the two Koreas. Nobody dreams, however, that North Korea is going to be so co-operative, not after its latest missile test, which it said put a small satellite into orbit.
Park's initial challenge may be to see how firmly she responds to likely North Korean threats, especially in the Yellow Sea, the scene of bloody incidents in recent years. She's already known among some in South Korea as "the steel lady", but she has yet to demonstrate her real mettle under fire. Moreover, she faces severe internal problems that North Korean strategists are sure to exploit.
At home, Park has to deal with the demands of young people, disillusioned with "the old politicians" whom they see as corrupt and in hock to the conglomerates that dominate the economy. Lee, a former Hyundai Construction chairman, lost popularity for giving them breaks in a "trickle-down" approach to the economy that's seen as benefiting no one but the super-rich and their executives. Adding to the disillusionment, his older brother is in jail in a corruption scandal.
Park says she's for "economic democratisation", opening up opportunities for individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises, but she's been vague about how to do that. It's quite possible she'll have to focus on the economy first while fending off North Korean rhetoric and intimidation.
Journalist Donald Kirk is the author of three books and numerous articles on Korea