With South Korean elections for the National Assembly now complete, and with the Saenuri Party (새누리당) holding on to its majority in the National Assembly, it is in many ways now the first day of South Korea’s presidential campaign.
No one emerges from the election with more of a boost than the Saenuri Party’s leader, who shepherded the Saenuri Party from the control of its unpopular and scandal-ridden old guard and rechristened it from the Grand National Party: Park Geun-hye, who also happens to be the daughter of former South Korean leader Park Chung-hee.
It seems clear that Park is ready to launch a campaign — she visited a national cemetery in Seoul Thursday morning and wrote in the visitors book at the front gate that she would create a new Republic of Korea.
Indeed, the Korea Times has a piece today setting the stage for Park’s emergence as presidential frontrunner:
Before the elections, few campaign watchers expected the Saenuri Party would receive such wide support from the general public after a series of scandals and corruption cases involving President Lee Myung-bak’s aides and relatives tarnished its image.
Park was called upon to assume the interim leadership last December when party support hit rock bottom.
The Korea Herald also hails her triumph, noting that Saeunri is rallying around Park in the aftermath of their win.
The Hankyoreh was even more glowing:
In essence, Park took sole responsibility for the election from beginning to end, prompting some to call it “Park Geun-hye’s election, by Park Geun-hye and for Park Geun-hye.” Shattering late 2011 expectations that the party would fail to win even 100 seats, she spearheaded the capturing of a majority 152 seats, proportional representatives included.
Credit for the victory was given to her alone.
An associate said, “If you take the ‘less than 100 seats’ prediction as the starting point, then Park Geun-hye clearly showed once again that she is the ‘election queen.’”
A [Saenuri] official said, “We saw that Park Geun-hye is pretty much unopposed south of the Han River.”
The same official called the result “stunning, if you consider that this was an even worse situation in some ways than the Roh Moo-hyun impeachment, with all the antipathy toward the Lee Myung-bak administration.
Park Chung-hee is credited with leading South Korea’s emergence from developing country to one of Asia’s — and the world’s — most highly developed nations, at the cost of suppressing freedom and democracy. Park’s reign, from 1961 to 1979, ended just one year before the Kwangju incident, a violent military response to civil demonstrations widely seen as a watershed moment that led to South Korea’s democratization in the late 1980s.