Who is Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s new leader?

Claudine Zap
April 15, 2013

Sworn into office on Feb. 25, 2013, South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, took charge during a tense time in relations with North Korea. And things have only gotten worse. Which makes this a good time to take a look at the country's first female elected to that office—no small feat in a country with the largest gender gap in the developed world, according to the BBC.

In fact, she is the first president of the country to win with an outright majority—52 percent of the vote.

Here, some more details about the leader facing a major threat from North Korea’s Kim Jong Un:

1. Park is the daughter of former authoritarian President Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea for nearly two decades. Her father, a general, seized power during a military coup in 1961 and stayed in charge until he was killed by his disgruntled spy chief in 1979.

2. Views of her father’s legacy have divided the country—some credit the elder Park with bringing prosperity to modern Korea, while others accuse him of human rights abuses.

The newly elected president recently apologized for her father’s human rights record.

3. Park is not unfamiliar with South Korea's presidential house. In 1974, at 22, she stepped into the role of acting first lady when her mother died in what was most likely a botched assassination attempt on her father.

4. There are signs that the North is testing the mettle of South Korea's president. In a patronizing reference to the new leader, the North blamed “the venomous swish of skirt” for tensions between the two nations.

5. The 61-year-old is not married and has no children, but has often said that she is "married" to her nation.

6. The fact that the leader of the Conservative Party was associated with her father helped overcome the prejudice of many male voters to elect the first female president.

7. Park earned a degree in engineering in 1974 from Seoul’s Sogang University. She was first elected to the National Assembly in 1998.