She pledged in a news conference to recreate Park Chung-hee's "Let's Live well" miracle of rapid economic gains for a country that she said was labouring under heavy household debt, the high cost of raising children and poverty among old people.
The elder Park's 18-year rule from 1961 to 1979 helped transform South Korea from a war-torn backwater into an export powerhouse.
Mr Park's daughter had earlier sought to distance herself from the divisive legacy of her father's rule that also saw political repression.
The gap between the conservative Mr Park and her left-wing challenger, Moon Jae-in, could be as little as half a percentage point, according to some polls.
"It comes down to the demographics of the voter turnout," said Hong Hyung-sik of pollster Hangil Research.
Polls show older voters are more likely to pick Ms Park while Mr Moon is reliant on more fickle younger voters.