South Korea has elected its first female president in the form of Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a divisive military strongman from the country’s authoritarian era.
The win is a landmark because of Park being female and also because her election could mean a new drive to start talks with North Korea, reports CBS News.
Park’s election also comes after five years of tension with Lee Myung-bak, the unpopular incumbent. Park is vowing to pursue engagement with North Korea, along with sending aid to the country, despite the long-range rocket fired by North Korea last week.
Ties between the two nations became strained under Lee’s term, and many voters believed that the former president’s policies were what drove the North to renew its nuclear and missile tests as well as to launch two attacks that killed 50 Koreans in 2010.
Park has repeatedly stated that she is open to dialogue with North Korea, though the North’s state media has repeatedly questioned Park’s sincerity because she and Lee are from the same conservative party.
The Los Angeles Times notes that Park has been a legislator since 1998 and is a member of South Korea’s New Frontier ruling party. South Korea’s first female president stated to a crowd in Seoul:
“This election is the people’s victory. I believe this was brought about by the people’s desperate desire to overcome hardship and revive the economy.”
Park Geun-hye is expected to take office in February and will likely continue the majority of President Lee’s policies. The election of a woman to the South Korean presidency is a big step forward for a country that ranked 108 of 135 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2012 report on gender equality.