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A Daughter of Dictatorship and Democracy

SEOUL – It is something of a cliché question in South Korea nowadays: Who would be the country’s next president if the election were held tomorrow, rather than in December 2012?

Numerous opinion polls show Park Geun-hye of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) to be the leading candidate. If elected, she would be South Korea’s first woman president, and, for her rivals, her dominant position in the race is an uncomfortable but unassailable fact.

South Korean voters of all ages and regions have welcomed Park as a candidate for their country’s leadership. Her political style is both refreshing and relevant, because she comes across as sincere and forthright at a time when the public is hungry for moral leadership. And she has an astonishing talent for simplifying complicated issues accurately, which she likely learned – along with how to interpret and manipulate the political connotations of every issue – from her father, former President Park Chung-hee.

Acclaimed as a national hero among radical right-wingers, the iron-fisted Park Chung-hee ruled South Korea from 1963 to 1979, in the wake of the 1961 military coup, only to be assassinated by his intelligence chief. His daughter is proud of his legacy, which marked the beginning of South Korea’s economic boom.