Park Geun-hye biography
Born on February 2, 1952, in Daegu, in the North Gyeongsang Province of South Korea, Park Geun-hye is the daughter of former South Korean President Park Chung-hee, who ruled the country from 1961 to 1979. After earning an engineering degree from the University of Seaugang in 1974, Park's mother was killed during an assassination attempt on Park Chung-hee. Subsequently, Park Geun-hye, at age 22, was instated as acting first lady of South Korea. In 1998, she was appointed vice chairperson of the recently established Grand National Party, and six years later, she won election as the Party's chairperson. Following a historic election on December 19, 2012, Park became South Korea's first female president. She was inaugurated in February 2013. Following her election victory, Park promised a "new era" of government and that she would be a "president for the people." She strives for unity and prosperity for South Korea while maintaining caution when it comes to the threat of North Korean affairs.
Park Geun-hye, South Korea's first female president, was born on February 2, 1952, in Daegu, in the North Gyeongsang Province of South Korea. She is the daughter of former South Korean President Park Chung-hee, who served from 1961 until his death by assassination 1979, and former first lady Yuk Young-soo, who was shot and killed in the throes of a 1974 assassination attempt on her husband.
Chung-hee began his 18-year reign when Park was 11 years old. His presidency divided South Korea and later became a controversial part of his daughter's campaign to become elected president herself. Critics called him a dictator who carried out human rights abuses and delayed the onset of democracy in South Korea; supporters claimed that he transformed the economy and helped the country recover following the Korean War.
Thrust into Politics
Following her high school graduation, Park Geun-hye enrolled at the University of Seaugang in Seoul, South Korea, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering in 1974. That same year, she suffered a tremendous tragedy: Her mother was shot and killed by North Korean assassin Mun Segwang, whose bullet was intended for the president. Citizens deeply mourned the death of Yuk Young-soo, who remains widely regarded as the country's most popular and beloved first lady.
Amidst her personal grief, Park was instated as the nation's acting first lady—a title requiring newfound responsibility for recent college graduate, who was then just 22 years old. But Park acclimated well to the political world: Early into her role as first lady, she gracefully and efficiently greeted dignitaries and conducted affairs of state, among a number of other responsibilities.
Five years after her mother's murder, tragedy struck again: Park's father, President Park Chung-hee, was assassinated at a dinner by his own intelligence chief, Kim Jae-kyu, on October 26, 1979.
Member of the National Assembly
Following her service as first lady, Park continued to flourish in the South Korean political world, becoming appointed vice chairperson of the Grand National Party in 1998. (The GNP had been established one year earlier, unifying the financially struggling New Korea Party and the Democratic Party.) Also in 1998, she began serving as a member of the National Assembly.
She would be re-elected four times thereafter, serving in five consecutive national assemblies. By this time, Park had developed a clear goal of not only unifying South Korea's party system, but unifying and strengthening the nation as a whole.
In 2003, Park became chairperson of the GNP's presidential election committee. The following year, she was elected chairperson of the GNP. (The Party was struggling at the time, after leading a failed attempt to impeach President Roh Moo-hyun.) Setting her sights on the presidency in 2007, Park was a candidate for the Party in the primaries, but lost to Lee Myung-bak, who went on to win the presidential election. In 2012, the GNP was renamed the Saenuri ("New Frontier") Party. Park remained a prominent figure of the Saenuri Party, serving as chairperson of its emergency committee.
South Korea's First Female President
In a historic election on December 19, 2012, Park defeated 59-year-old liberal opponent and former human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in for the South Korean presidency—living up to her moniker as the "Queen of Elections" and, most notably, becoming the nation's first female president. Unmarried at the time of the election, Park has often said that she is "married" to her nation. Following her election victory, Park promised a "new era" of government and that she would be a "president for the people." She strives for unity and prosperity for South Korea while maintaining caution when it comes to the threat of North Korean affairs. Park was sworn in as president in February 2013.