SEOUL -- Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the strongman who ruled South Korea for much of the 1960s and 1970s, was elected Wednesday as the country's first female president after a divisive, hotly contested election.
An early vote count at 9 p.m. Seoul time, three hours after the polls closed, showed Park leading her main opponent, Moon Jae-in, 52.6% to 47%, and major South Korea TV networks were already calling the election in Park's favor.
Park, the 60-year-old candidate of the conservative Saenuri ruling party, has served in the legislature since 1998, but her fame is inherited from her father, Park Chung-hee, who seized power in 1961 in a coup. He led the country until his assassination in 1979. Park's mother was also assassinated, in 1974, leaving Park to serve as de facto first lady at state functions for the last five years of her father;s presidency.
South Koreans credit the late Park Chung-hee for turning their impoverished, war-torn country into one of the world’s wealthiest, but are still bitter about his long repression of the its democracy movement.