Park wins ROK ruling party's presidential primary

Updated: 2012-08-20 15:54


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Park wins ROK ruling party's presidential primary

Park Geun-hye, lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, arrives to attend an event to launch her bid to become president in Seoul July 10, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

SEOUL, South Korea - Park Geun-hye of South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party won the conservative party's presidential primary race Monday, becoming the first woman nominated by a major party to run for president.

The daughter of late military strongman Park Chung-hee clinched a landslide victory with 86.3 percent of the votes cast by some 82,000 party members and 6,000 citizens a day ago.

The win came as no surprise, as the 60-year-old's complete dominance in pre-election polls had long overshadowed her rivals, including Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo, former Incheon mayor Ahn Sang-soo and former presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee.

Park, whose previous presidential bid was thwarted in 2007 by incumbent President Lee Myung-bak, has pledged to expand welfare programs, create jobs and improve strained ties with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

She enjoys unrivaled popularity among conservative voters and old-timers, which helped the scandal-ridden Saenuri Party win a surprise victory in tightly contested parliamentary elections in April.

Observers say Park's image evokes nostalgia among her supporters for the country's rags-to-riches economic development under the 18-year rule by her father, whose legacy is nonetheless still subject to debate.

The junior Park recently defended her father's 1961 military coup as the "best possible" choice that helped modernize the country, copping criticism from liberals and progressives.

Her potential rivals include Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party and software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo, who has yet to announce his presidential bid.

The presidential election will be held on December 19. Lee, whose five-year term ends early next year, is barred by constitution from running for re-election.