South Korea profile - Leaders
- 9 December 2015
- From the section Asia-Pacific
President: Park Geun-hye
South Korea elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye, in a close-run contest in December 2012.
Her father, Park Chung-hee, ruled the country for 18 years after seizing power in a coup. Ms Park issued a public apology for human rights abuses committed during his rule.
Ms Park, of the Saenuri Party, succeeds fellow-conservative Lee Myung-bak, who made good on a pledge to take a tougher line towards North Korea than his predecessor, and to strengthen South Korea's alliance with the United States.
In her inauguration speech, she promised to prioritise both national security and economic revitalisation.
To North Korea, she offered a step-by-step trust-building process, but vowed she would "not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation".
Relations with the North quickly became the first major crisis of her term when the Communist regime announced it was restarting the mothballed Yongbyon nuclear complex, pulled its workers out of the Kaesong joint industrial zone, and cranked up the bellicose rhetoric in response to US-South Korean military exercises. Mrs Park also faces challenges at home from left-wing opponents of her business-friendly policies, who staged major protest rallies in Seoul in November and December 2015.