Park Guen-hye the daughter of South Korean former dictator Park Chung-hee has defeated her liberal rival Moon Jae-in. She will be the first female leader of South Korea.
Although votes are still being counted, Moon has admitted defeat. The turnout for the election was high. Social welfare and economic issues dominated the campaign. Park, 60, will replace her colleague Lee Myung-bak who was forced by law to step down after a five year term.
Park is facing demands that she reform the "chaebols" huge family-run conglomerates that her father helped create. Among the well-known chaebols are Samsung, LG, and Hyundai. However, she will also have to deal with the slowdown in the South Korean economy. Her father Park Chung-hee is credited with building South Korea's economy while president between 1963 to 1979 when he was assassinated. However, he is also known for his human rights violations and authoritarian rule.
The election results were close, with Park receiving 50.1% of the vote, while rival Moon Jae-in received 48.9%. Park told supporters in Seoul:"This is a victory brought by the people's hope for overcoming crisis and economic recovery."
After several decades of growth that averaged 5.5% per year, the rate fell to just about 2% this year. Mr Moon who ran for the Democratic United Party was formerly a human rights lawyer. He was jailed briefly under the rule of Park's father back in the 1970s. Ms. Park apologized back in September for the human rights abuses under her father's rule.
Both candidates campaigned on similar policies including reform of the chaebols, increasing social welfare spending, and more engagement with North Korea. Park noted: "We haven't paid enough attention to fairness.[Big companies] can invest and create jobs, but they also have some bad practices - they concentrate their business among their own groups, they snatch technology from small companies, and they enforce prices."
During Lee's term relations with North Korea deteriorated considerably. Perhaps now relations will improve again.