SEOUL--The victory of South Korea’s ruling conservative party in parliamentary elections on April 11 appears to have boosted the presidential chances of its leader Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former South Korean strongman Park Chung-hee.
South Korean media focused on Park as the savior of the ruling Saenuri Party, which maintained its majority in the National Assembly, with one report trumpeting, "The queen of elections has returned."
Another article said the results demonstrated the popularity of Park, 60, whose father, Park Chung-hee, ruled South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s.
At an April 12 news conference, Park left open the possibility of running in the presidential election scheduled for the end of the year.
"We traversed a difficult path that took us back from the brink of a crisis," Park said. "We will carry out all of our promises. I await your evaluation after those results come in."
Ruling party officials turned to Park at the end of last year after their party suffered a series of by-election losses in national and local races.
It was not the first time the party had turned to her. Her campaigning in the 2004 parliamentary election was widely credited for preventing a rout, but some advised her against taking over the leadership in 2011 because the party was so unpopular.
She immediately showed her popular touch after taking the helm. With many younger voters switching to opposition parties, Park set up an account on the Twitter microblogging service to try to reach them.
During an appearance on a TV variety program in January, she shared highly personal feelings about losing her mother in an attempted assassination of her father, her life with her father after her mother’s death and whether she intended to remain single forever.
She also showed an appealing sense of humor, telling jokes when the mood got too gloomy and sharing an anecdote about eluding her bodyguards as a student and going to watch movies.
At one stage in the campaign, Park’s younger sister, Park Geun-ryeong, threw a wrench in the works when she was chosen as a candidate for a rival party, but that embarrassment was avoided when she later withdrew.
The Saenuri Party is expected to begin the process of choosing its presidential candidate this summer.
Park is in the driver's seat but there are pitfalls in the road ahead. Suspected campaign violations in the parliamentary election are likely to result in arrests, and an investigation into eavesdropping and monitoring of civilians by government officials is also hanging over the government.
If she wants the top job, Park will also have to address her party’s dismal support in South Korea’s capital, Seoul, and wide regional differences in her party’s support.
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