Park Geun-hye, daughter of assassinated South Korean leader, to run for president

Park Geun-Hye

Park Geun-hye, daughter of South Korea's assassinated strongman leader, will announce her presidential bid in a public square in Seoul next week, campaign aides told Reuters today, a move would position the country's leading female politician as a top candidate in the race. 

A longtime parliamentarian, Park's approval ratings are nearly 40 percent, according to April data from Naver, popularity that gives her a clear advantage for the primary of the ruling conservative New Frontier Party, said Reuters. South Korea's Yonhap news agency described her as "one of the strongest favorites" to run in the December presidential election. 

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Her nomination would be a comeback after a failed 2007 bid in which she campaigned on a free-market platform of "Korean Thatcherism," according to Reuters, quoting campaign spokesman Lee Sang-il as saying Park "continues to deliberate on what her message will be" this time.

Reuters said she is likely to focus on welfare -- South Korea's population is aging quickly -- and may soften the nation's aggressive stance toward isolationist North Korea, with whom the nation is still technically at war. 

Park, who served a brief stint as a twenty-something first lady when her mother was assassinated in 1974, has clearly inherited her father's some of her father's ambition, perhaps because she witnessed him take on the presidency at the formative age of 11.

Leaked US embassy cables reveal that in the late 1970s, US officials tried to use Park's believed growing influence over her father to pressure the South Korean leader on human rights and nuclear issues, according to KBS Global

Many Koreans still associate her with her father's controversial legacy. The hardline leader, assassinated by his security chief in 1979 is credited with resuscitating a dying post-war economy but criticized for his intolerance of dissent and human rights abuses. 

Others believe Park's highly-political personal history distances her from the average South Korean, a reputation that has earned her the nickname “Princess Geun Hye" in reference to the priviledged naïveté of Snow White.

On Tuesday, Korean officials charged artist Lee Ha with violating elections regulations by papering South Korea's second-largest city of Busan with satirical posters of Park as Snow White, according to The Hankyoreh

In addition, Reuters said 60-year-old Park, who has never married, may struggle to attract younger voters. 

Lee Kyung-hwa, a young Korean female writer voting for the first time in the coming election, believes South Korea "urgently needs a 'motherly leader' who can reflect the minority’s stance when redressing the paradoxical structures of society which marginalize the poor," she wrote in The Korea Times.

"It remains to be seen whether Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party would be a wise 'motherly' president if elected," she wrote, adding, "in my opinion, she has certain qualities that emulate those of Queen Seondeok," referring to the country's first Queen and the subject of a highly-popular historical TV miniseries about the life of the seventh-century female ruler.