Conservative candidate Park Geun-hye claimed victory Wednesday in South Korea's presidential election, a result that will make her the country's first woman president.
Addressing crowds in Seoul's central Gwanghwamun Square, Park said her win was a victory for the people.
"I will be the president of the nation who keeps pledges," she said.
"This is considered a victory for people who want to overcome crisis and revive the economy. I will never forget the will of the people who believed in me wherever I went during the election campaign.
"I will start an era of happiness in the nation."
Her rival, liberal candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party, conceded victory, according to South Korean network YTN.
South Korea's outgoing President Lee Myung-bak congratulated Park on her win, which comes at a time of rising economic anxiety for the nation.
The result has not yet been confirmed by the country's National Election Commission.
But Park was leading with 51.66% of the vote, to 47.91% for her rival Moon, with more than 94% of the vote counted, election officials said.
The three major broadcasters in South Korea all projected a win for Park, the 60-year-old daughter of a former dictator who heads the governing conservative Saenuri party.
U.S. President Barack Obama sent a message of congratulations to Park on Wednesday.
"I look forward to working closely with the Park Administration to further enhance our extensive cooperation with the Republic of Korea on a wide range of important bilateral, regional and global issues," he said. "The U.S.-ROK alliance serves as a lynchpin of peace and security in the Asia Pacific, and our two nations share a global partnership with deep economic, security, and people-to-people ties."
Obama also praised Lee for what he said the outgoing leader "has done to strengthen U.S.-ROK relations and promote a Global Korea."
Park will assume office in February 2013, in a country grappling with income inequality, angst over education and employment prospects for its youth, and strained relations with North Korea.
South Korea is also a strategic Western ally and the fourth-largest economy in Asia.
"I hope the next president can put what the people want and how the country can develop before the interests of their own party," said Yong Sung-hwa, who voted in the morning.
As in many other elections around the world, the economy is the No. 1 issue for South Korean voters. Though the Asian country has fared far better than other countries, including the United States, during the economic crisis, its export-led economy has still felt the pinch.
"This country depends on the world's economy," said Jong Kun Choi, associate professor in the department of political science and international studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. "Eighty-nine percent of our GDP comes from the international trade."
The election appeared to be a showdown of generations. Park enjoys broad support from older Koreans in their 50s and 60s, while Moon has strong support from younger Koreans.
In a survey conducted by the National Election Commission, 80% of the respondents said they would vote, despite frigid weather.