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Daughter of S. Korea's late dictator named ruling party's presidential candidate

08-20-2012 17:55 BJT

Park Geun-hye, who won the ruling Saenuri Party's presidential primary race Monday, gives a speech after her victory was announced at the party's national convention in Ilsan, South Korea, on Aug. 20, 2012. Daughter of former military strongman Park Chung-hee, she has become the first woman to run for president. (Xinhua/Park Jin hee)

SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Park Geun-hye won South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party's presidential primary race on Monday, becoming the country's first woman nominated by a major party to run for president.

The daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, she clinched a landslide victory with 84 percent of the votes cast by some 82,000 party members and 6,000 citizens a day ago.

The victory came as no surprise, as the 60-year-old's complete dominance in pre-election polls had long overshadowed her rivals, including Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo, former Incheon mayor Ahn Sang-soo and former presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee.

Park, whose previous presidential bid was thwarted in 2007 by incumbent President Lee Myung-bak, has pledged to expand welfare programs, create jobs and improve strained ties with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"I will build an economy where growth, welfare and job creation create a virtuous circle," Park said in a victory speech. "I will make sure to give the less privileged equal opportunities. "

Such policy pledges are almost indistinguishable from those of her liberal rivals, indicating an attempt to reach out to young voters and city dwellers less thrilled about her.

Instead, Park enjoys unrivaled popularity among conservative voters and old-timers, which helped the scandal-ridden Seanuri Party win a surprise victory in tightly contested parliamentary elections in April.

Observers say Park's image evokes nostalgia among her supporters for the country's economic rise under her father's 18- year rule which is still subject to partisan debate.

The junior Park recently defended her father's 1961 military coup as the "best possible" choice that helped modernize the country, copping criticism from liberals and progressives.

Her view on the issue is likely to haunt her on her way to becoming the country's first female leader.

"Are we going to keep talking about the past when we are faced with so many challenges?" asked Park at a press conference Monday, brushing off a question about her stance on her father's legacy.

Her potential rivals include Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party and software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo, who has yet to announce his presidential bid.

The presidential election will be held on Dec. 19. President Lee, whose five-year term ends early next year, is barred by the constitution from running for re-election.


Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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