Park Geun-hye (朴槿惠) of South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party won the tightly contested presidential election held on Dec. 19, 2012, becoming the first woman to lead the country and extending the conservative rule for another five years. Park took office on Feb. 25, 2013 when Lee Myung-bak ends his single five-year term.
Born on Feb. 2, 1952 in Daegu, South Korea, she is the eldest daughter of Park Chung-hee, president of South Korea from 1963 to 1979. She graduated from Seoul's Seongsim High School in 1970, going on to receive a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Sogang University in 1974. She also studied at the University of Grenoble. She received honorary doctoral degrees from Chinese Culture University in Taiwan in 1987, Pukyong National University and KAIST in 2008, and Sogang University in 2010. She has never been married.
Park Geun-hye was the chairwoman of the conservative Grand National Party (GNP) between 2004 and 2006 and between 2011 and 2012 (the GNP changed its name to "Saenuri Party" in February 2012).
She is a member of the Korean National Assembly who had served four consecutive parliamentary terms as a constituency representative between 1998 and 2012, and started her fifth term as a proportional representative from June 2012.
As a political veteran with the moniker "queen of elections," Park acted as the de facto first lady to her father after her mother was assassinated and is credited with reviving the Saenuri Party when it was mired in a series of devastating corruption scandals.
She remains widely popular among older voters nostalgic for rapid economic growth under the senior Park's 18-year authoritarian rule, while critics point to ruthless suppression of dissidents during his reign.
Despite dogged opposition criticism of Park for her reluctance to apologize for abuses under her father's watch, the five-term lawmaker proved yet again to be unassailable in key southern cities including her hometown of Deagu.
Park Geun-Hye was sworn in as South Korea's first female president on Feb. 25, 2013, vowing zero tolerance with provocations from a nuclearised North Korea and a new era of economic prosperity for all.
On May 5, 2013, Park Geun-hye arrived in New York to began her visit to the United States, also her first overseas trip since taking office in February. She met with U.S. President Barrack Obama on May 8 at the White House.
On June 27, 2013, Park Geun-hye arrived in Beijing, kicking off her first state visit to China since taking office in February, 2013. China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) agreed to push for the completion of a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).
In September 2016, South Korean prosecutors planned to investigate President Park Geun-hye over Park's biggest political scandal involving her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil suspected of intervening in state affairs behind the scenes and peddling undue influence for personal gains.