Posted : 2012-12-20 00:28
Updated : 2014-06-27 12:13

Our Madam President-elect

President-elect Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party waves to her supporters as she walks out of her house in Samseong-dong, Seoul, Wednesday. / Yonhap

Park promises compassionate conservatism

By Kim Tong-hyung

Moon Jae-in, contender of the main opposition Democratic United Party, leaves his house in Gugi-dong, Seoul, for the party's headquarters after conceding defeat in the presidential poll, Wednesday night. / Yonhap
Park Geun-hye was elected as the first female president of Korea, overcoming a ferocious challenge from opposition rival Moon Jae-in in a close race, Wednesday.

While the conditions seemed ripe for replacing the party in power, a sharply divided nation voted to give the conservatives five more years to get the economy straight.

Park, 60, the daughter of assassinated military strongman Park Chung-hee, and a Saenuri Party veteran, secured 51.6 percent of the vote versus the Democratic United Party (DUP) nominee's 48 percent as of 00:30 a.m. Thursday, when about 90 percent of the ballots had been counted.

Replacing Saenuri Party alumni Lee Myung-bak as the country's most powerful individual, Park will face the challenge of governing a deeply polarized nation struggling to cope with a frail economy, eroding living standards and social dysfunction.

In a victory speech in front of her supporters in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, Park vowed to follow through on her commitment to open a new era of conservative politics that better protect working-class interests.

''I will become a president who improves living standards and always delivers on promises made,'' she said.

''This election is your victory. The passion to overcome the economic crisis and put the economy back on track has prevailed.''

A dejected Moon congratulated Park on her victory and apologized to his supporters for coming up short.

''I did my best, but it wasn't good enough,'' he said.

''I admit defeat. But this is my defeat and not a defeat of the people who showed the passion and desire for new politics.''

It was an easier win for Park than had been projected by pre-election polls, which suggested that the race was on a knife edge. This was the first time since free elections began in 1987 that the winning candidate garnered more than half of the votes cast.

Park had been considered as the favorite for most of the presidential season. However, Moon managed to give her a late scare in the past couple of weeks after former independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo agreed to ride shot-gun on his campaign trail.

A roar of celebration shook the Saenuri Party campaign headquarters in Seoul when television networks began projecting Park as the winner around 9 p.m., even as ballots were still being counted in many regions where voters had waited in longer lines.

It was a tougher victory than the one posted by Lee five years ago when he attracted 48.7 percent of the votes to crush his closest competitor Chung Dong-young, a DUP heavyweight, who managed just support of 26.1 percent.

However, the right-leaning ruling party might rate Park's win as the bigger achievement as she had to beat not only a pesky Moon, but distance herself from the lame-duck incumbent, now as popular as gout amid a worsening economy and after a slew of corruption scandals.

Park will inherit an ideal environment as head-of-state, with the National Assembly under the control of the Saenuri Party and positioned to benefit from a consistency in policies.

She will be returning to the presidential residence for the first time in more than three decades after she left it following the assassination of her father, Park Chung-hee, by his own spy chief in 1979. Her mother had been murdered five years earlier, thrusting the then-22-year-old into the role of ''first lady'' with responsibilities to receive the spouses of foreign heads of state.

The election has been as much about the past as the future, perhaps an inevitable clash between the collective memories of the country's impressive process of industrialization and its bloody transition toward a democracy.

Park's campaign relied heavily on the older generation of voters, who credit her father with orchestrating a process of rapid industrialization that produced a magnitude of changes that took a whole century for European countries. The vote suggests they continue to be more forgiving about his bloody record of civilian oppression.

The under-40 voters heavily favored Moon, the former human rights lawyer who emerged as the political heir of the late Roh Moo-hyun after the former president leaped to his death in 2009.

For all their differences, Park and Moon put forth similar policies on politics, society and the economy, speechifying about opening a new era of centralist politics aimed at combating inequality without hurting growth.

And Park admits she will have to be more engaging with North Korea than Lee, whose stubbornly hard-line stance has been blamed for diminishing the South's role in international efforts to pressure Pyongyang and derail its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

It was a crushing defeat for Moon, who earlier in the day seemed inspired by the higher-than-expected voter turnout of 75.8 percent, apparently driven by the increased participation of voters in their 20s and 30s.

Perhaps the DUP nominee was wrong to place the fate of his candidacy in the hands of an indecisive Ahn, who likely will replace him as the next hope for the liberals.

Ahn, a millionaire computer software guru and influential public speaker, bitterly withdrew from the presidential race in November after his talks to merge candidacies with Moon fell through. He then flip-flopped for weeks, leaving Moon gasping for his help, only to commit to the DUP camp a couple of weeks before polling day under pressure from supporters.

This was after Moon's prolonged waiting game, which reached a low point when he braved a snowstorm to reach Ahn's house in downtown Seoul, only to be stood up. This had already deprived him of a crucial window to promote his policies and differentiate them from Park. Wishy-washiness is presumably not a quality voters want to find in their leaders.

And many conservative voters may have been put off by Moon's stubborn defense of the ''Sunshine Policy'' of engaging North Korea, pursued under the governments of the late Kim Dae-jung and Roh, which provided the regime with economic assistance in the hope of softening the regime's combative behavior.

The approach is now looking more like a failure after a series of nuclear tests and an advancement in long-range missile capabilities reported from the North.

It could also be said that the DUP repeated the same strategic mistake that lost them the parliamentary elections in April, focusing on voters in the Seoul metropolitan area and the Busan-South Gyeongsang Province region at the cost of isolating other areas. Moon followed a similar campaign route, while Park barnstormed more broadly across the country.

It was a telling sign when DUP members in other regions questioned why Moon was providing regionally-specific policies for the Busan-South Gyeongsang Province zone but nowhere else. The hapless answer from campaign headquarters was that regional policies were best when written by the party's regional units.

관련 한글 기사

"성별 격차 심한 한국 여성 대통령 큰의미"

첫 부녀 대통령 기록도...`박근혜 시대' 대변화 예고

朴당선인 '민생대통령 돼 국민행복시대 반드시 열겠다'

문재인 패배승복 '국민통합과 상생의 정치를 펴 달라'

19일 실시된 제18대 대통령 선거에서 새누리당 박근혜 대선후보의 당선이 확정됐다.

    박 당선인은 이날 개표 89.7%가 완료된 가운데 51.6% 1천415만여표를 얻어 48.0% 1천316만여표에 그친 민주통합당 문재인 후보를 누르고 사실상 당선을 확정 지었다. 두 후보의 득표 차는 98만여표다.

    지금과 같은 개표 흐름대로라면 박 당선인은 충분히 과반 득표를 할 것이 확실시된다.

    지난 87년 대통령 직선제 개헌 이후 과반 득표 대통령이 나오는 것은 이번이 처음이다. 이는 이번 대선이 유력한 제3후보가 없는 가운데 보수와 진보의 일대일 구도로 치러지면서 세(勢)대결 양상이 극대화된데 따른 것으로 분석된다.

    이날 투표에는 총 선거인수 4천50만7천842명 가운데 3천72만2천912명이 참여해 75.8%의 투표율을 기록했다.

    이는 1997년 제15대 대선 때의 80.7%보다 4.9%포인트 못 미치는 수치이지만 2002년 제16대 70.8%, 2007년 제17대 63.0%보다 각각 5.0%포인트, 12.8% 포인트 높아진 것이다.

    박 당선인의 이날 승리로 새누리당 보수정권은 이명박 정부에 이어 10년을 이어가게 됐다.

    또 박 당선인 본인은 첫 여성대통령 기록과 함께 아버지인 고(故) 박정희 전 대통령에 이어 부녀가 처음으로 대통령에 오르는 기록도 세우게 됐다.

    박 당선인은 이날 당선이 확정된 직후 서울 광화문광장 세종대왕 동상 앞에 설치된 특별무대에 나와 '이번 선거는 국민 여러분의 승리다. 위기를 극복하고 경제를 살리려는 열망이 가져온 국민 마음의 승리'라면서 '국민께 드린 약속을 반드시 실천하는 민생대통령이 되겠다'고 밝혔다.

    또 '새로운 시대를 여러분께서 열 수 있도록 해 준 것'이라면서 '보내주신 신뢰와 그 뜻을 깊이 마음에 새기면서 우리 국민 여러분 모두가 꿈을 이룰 수 있는, 또 작은 행복이라도 느끼면서 살아갈 수 있는 국민행복시대를 제가 반드시 열겠다'고 강조했다.

    문 후보는 영등포 당사에서 기자회견을 갖고 '최선을 다했지만 역부족이었다'며 패배를 공식 선언했다.

    문 후보는 '정권교체와 새정치를 바라는 국민의 열망을 이루지 못했고 국민과의 약속을 지키지 못하게 됐다. 모든 것은 다 저의 부족함 때문'이라면서 '박근혜 당선인에게 축하의 인사를 드리며 국민통합과 상생의 정치를 펴줄 것을 기대한다'고 말했다.

    여성 리더십과 국민대통합을 앞세운 `박근혜 시대'가 도래함에 따라 정치, 경제, 사회, 문화 등 전 분야에 걸쳐 대변화가 예상된다.

    박 당선인은 특히 선거기간 내내 '국민을 편가르거나 선동하지 않고 100% 대한민국을 건설하는데 모든 것을 바치겠다'며 일관되게 국민통합, 국민화합을 강조해 왔으며 약속 이행 차원에서 이미 `국민대통합위원회'까지 구성해 놓은 상태다.

    박 당선인은 이날 ▲민생대통령 ▲약속대통령 ▲대통합대통령 3대 약속 준수를 거듭 천명했다.

    박 당선인은 21일 오전 국립현충원 참배를 시작으로 당선인으로서의 행보를 시작한다.

    한편 이날 대선과 함께 실시된 서울시교육감 재선거에서는 보수성향의 문용린 후보가,  경남지사 보선에서는 새누리당 홍준표 후보가 각각 당선됐다.

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