President-elect Park Geun-hye will become the first female leader of South Korea in February this year.

President-elect Park Geun-hye

The Saenuri Party defeated the centre-left Democratic United Party in the 2012 December elections. Park, 60, is set to follow in her father’s footsteps as she won with a majority of 51.6%.

The elections highlighted a positive moment for Korean democracy with a total of 70% of the population turning out to have their say.

The Saenuri Party have marked this victory as an opportunity to finally lay to rest the controversy surrounding Park’s father, Park Chung-Hee, the former Korean leader.

Chung-Hee, who died 33 years ago when he was assassinated by his own chief of security, had ruled as a dictator for 18 years following a military coup.

The legacy of her father’s brutal regime, which was accused of torturing the opposition and imposing martial law has detracted from the rapid industrialisation and economic growth seen during those years.

Park has attempted to repair the damage by focusing her policies on improving human rights laws and developing the pensions program for the countries aging population.

The recent election focused mainly on domestic reforms and regulating big businesses. Park plans to expand the country’s economy, which currently stands as the 11th largest in the world.

With Korea’s geographic location in an economic hotspot, Park plans to bring the country into the modern age as her neighbour China has done in recent years.

Park’s biggest challenge will be to improve relations with North Korea which have deteriorated over the last few years due to multiple border disputes and accusations of aggression from both sides.

Tensions were increased during the election by North Korea’s successful launch of a long range rocket in December 2012.

North Korean leader Kim Jung-un claimed the launch was part of the North Korean space program, which aims to place satellites in Earth’s orbit.

However, other Asian states such as South Korea and Japan have accused the North of using the space program as a cover for testing intercontinental missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.

Many in South Korea hope the election of Park Geun-hye will usher in a new era of prosperity for South Korea through improved relations with the West and economic growth.

Park has stated she plans to dedicate her life to public service and aims to guide her country into the modern age.