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Park wins South Korean presidential election

South Korean voters have chosen conservative candidate Park Geun-hye as their president. The daughter of the country's late dictator will become its first female head of state.

The National Election Commission said that Park had secured the necessary votes to defeat her liberal opponent Moon Jae-in.

With more than 96 percent of the votes in, Park had garnered 51.6 percent of the vote, compared with Moon's 47.9 percent.

"I will become a president of the people's livelihoods who keeps her promises to the people and open an era in which the people are happy,” park told a rally in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.

Turnout was nearly 76 percent, a significant rise on the 63 percent figure for 2007 elections.

Park served in the presidential palace, the Blue House, as her father's first lady in the 1970s following the death of her mother who was killed by a North Korean-backed gunman.

Her father, Park Chung-hee, is a polarizing figure in South Korea, having seized power in a 1961 military coup. During his 18 years of rule, he is credited with helping bring about the country's economic rise, but is also vilified for human rights abuses committed under his regime.

Unmarried and with no children, Park has said she would devote her life to her country if elected.

Park has already spent 15 years in politics, working as a legislator with the ruling Saenuri (New Frontier) party.

While many of her policies have yet to be thoroughly outlined, she has signaled a will to engage more with North Korea after relations thawed under the outgoing president, Lee Myung-bak. However, she was expected to take a more cautious approach to rapprochement with North Korea than her rival Moon and his Democratic United Party.

Park's campaign was launched as a "National Happiness Campaign" and the "Happiness Promotion Committee."

A third candidate, Lee Jung-Hee from the left-wing United Progressive Party, withdrew from the race on Sunday in an effort to unify the anti-Park vote.

rc/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)