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Ex-military ruler's daughter voted new leader of South Korea

Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

South Korea's first female leader, Park Geun-Hye.

Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a former military ruler became the South Korea’s first female leader Wednesday, saying she would work to heal a divided society.

The 60-year old conservative, will return to the presidential palace in Seoul where she served as her father's first lady in the 1970s, after her mother was assassinated by a North Korean-backed gunman.


News agency Yonhap said the result could have profound impacts on the country’s foreign policy, particularly with regard to its Communist neighbor, North Korea.

Park has said she would negotiate with Kim Jong-un, the youthful leader of North Korea who recently celebrated a year in office, but wants the South's isolated and impoverished neighbor to give up its nuclear weapons program as a precondition for aid, something Pyongyang has refused to do.

With more than 88 percent of votes in the country’s presidential election counted, Park led with 51.6 percent to 48 percent for her left-wing challenger, human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in, giving her an unassailable lead that forced Moon to concede.

PhotoBlog: South Korea elects its first female president

Her raucous, jubilant supporters braved sub-zero temperatures to chant her name and wave South Korean flags outside her house. When she reached her party headquarters, Park was greeted with shouts of "president".

An elated Park reached into the crowd to grasp hands of supporters wearing red scarves, her party's color.

"This is a victory brought by the people's hope for overcoming crisis and for economic recovery," she told supporters at a rally in central Seoul.

Park is unmarried and has no children, saying that her life will be devoted to her country.

The legacy of her father, Park Chung-hee, who ruled for 18 years and transformed the country from the ruins of the 1950-53 Korean War into an industrial power-house, still divides Koreans.

"I trust her. She will save our country," said Park Hye-sook, 67, who voted in an affluent Seoul district, earlier in the day. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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