SEOUL -- Park Geun-hye, whose father ruled South Korea as dictator for 18 years, won the ruling party's presidential nomination yesterday, bringing her a step closer to becoming the country's first female leader.
Park, 60, beat four other candidates to win 84 percent of the vote in ballots cast by party lawmakers, nonelected members and citizens. The opposition has yet to name a candidate to contest the Dec. 19 election, although speculation is that independent software magnate Ahn Cheol-soo would run.
"I vow to win this presidential election and to create a new South Korea, one full of hopes and dreams," Park said. She pledged to promote economic growth to create a society "everyone can share."
The never-married eldest daughter of late leader Park Chung-hee, she must revitalize a party hurt by scandals and President Lee Myung-bak's plummeting approval ratings. She has signaled that she may depart from the New Frontier Party's economic policies to respond to youth unemployment and rising income disparity.
"Winning the nomination was a fait accompli," said Park Won-hon, a political science professor at Seoul National University. "Her biggest challenge now is to broaden her fan base to include the youth vote."
Park, who became acting first lady at 22 after her mother was killed in a bungled North Korean assassination attempt on Park Chung-hee, has softened her support of her father's export-led growth policies. As demand falls in Europe, she has pledged to broaden welfare and offer subsidies to smaller businesses to create jobs.
In January, the NFP announced a less hard-line stance on North Korea, which has shown no sign of abandoning its nuclear program since Kim Jong Un succeeded his father as leader. South and North technically remain at war. Park said she would seek "a new framework for sustainable peace on the Korean peninsula."