Home News South Korea S. Korea's Women Backed Park for More Workplace Equality: Academic

S. Korea's Women Backed Park for More Workplace Equality: Academic

E-mail Print PDF

Download South Korea has elected its first female head of state.

Conservative leader Park Geun-hye comes with a painful political legacy.

Her father was president during the '60s and '70s.

Her mother was killed in an assassination attempt on the president in 1974 and the president himself, Park Chung Hee, was assassinated by the chief of the secret police in 1979.

Ms Park has won office promising to create more jobs and increase welfare spending while reviving South Korea's sluggish economy.

Liam Cochrane from Radio Australia speaks to Professor Lee Jung Hoon from Yonsei University about this.

“She brings to the job 15 years or so of her involvement in the National Assembly as a National Assembly woman. She was also the head of the party that she's in right now. So she's had plenty of political experience. I mean if you wanted to trace her back even further, after her mother's death in 1974 till her father's end of his rule in 1979, so for five years she was sort of like the acting first lady. So she knows what it takes to be presidential, and therefore I don't think experience is a question mark here.”

Q. As a high profile female in the country, going back all of those years as you say into the 70s, a big question in the election campaign was the role that gender was to play. We heard mixed reports in the lead-up, what role do you think gender played in the end?

“Well I think in the end it played out in favour of Madam Park Geun-Hye. In the beginning it seemed like she wasn't able to muster as much women voters in her favour, despite the fact that she will be representing the first female leader of Korea since one of the Queens some one-thousand-115 years ago. So you would expect that maybe like 70 per cent of the female voters coming out to vote for her, that wasn't the case. But at the end of the day I believe a lot of the women voters felt that it's time for Korea to have a woman leader, and that she could bring about greater equality and rights for the women in Korea in the workforce, and therefore I think it worked in her favour in a positive way.”

Q. Now the vote was a very tight one and it's left the country politically split almost right down the middle. Do you think the President-elect will have a tough job trying to reconcile the national differences?

“Well that's one of her main key points or promises campaign pledge, to bring about unity, unity within South Korea, because Korea seems to be so polarised politically and ideologically. So she's going to make every effort to bring in particularly the south-western part of Korea, which is so heavily in favour of the opposition camp. She's already done that by bringing into her camp a lot of the former followers of President Kim Dae-jung, the political icon of the Jeolla province. So I think she's going to make a lot of effort to unify the country. I think there will be a lot of people helping her to do so. Now will that be a cure-all? I don't think so. But at least she's going to a valiant effort to bring about unity, it's not going to be easy though.”

Q. Another difficult task ahead of her is to really kick-start South Korea's economy, and in particular to make good on some of her promises in terms of these huge family-owned conglomerates, the gigantic corporations. What sort of things might she be able to do to try and level the playing field there?

“Well I think one thing that the global community has to be aware of is that the President-elect Park Geun-Hye is very market oriented, it's not like she's going to interfere to upset the market forces. That's only going to lead to eventually a shrinking of the economy, which is not going to help in any way with all her pledges for welfare and so on. And therefore she's going to do everything possible to spur on the market and the economy, whether that's the big companies or small to medium-sized companies, because she believes firmly that the pie has to get larger in order for there to be greater distribution in her welfare policies. So I don't think you can expect her to be become extremely meddlesome in reprimanding the big businesses. I mean like for example  Samsung alone accounts for 25 per cent of Korean economy. How do you meddle with that, because once you do so you're basically targeting the Korean economy as a whole. So I think what she's going to preach is fairness, fairness to the common people and greater sense of responsibility and accountability by the well-off people. And I think that's going to be the focus of a lot of her economic and welfare policies.”

Q. On the foreign policy front of course the engagement with North Korea, the big issue, how do you think she will try to reengage with the north?

“Well she's already said on a number of occasions during the campaign that she's open to dialogue. She wants to talk with North Korea. She's willing to provide humanitarian aid despite political upheavals. And just like President Obama in Myanmar tried to open the arms and embrace North Korea, that's basically what she's doing. But it's not without conditions. I mean there are certain things that North Korea has to come clean on, like for example apologising for the sinking of the South Korean battleship, the naval ship that lead to the killing of 46 naval officers. Also there was a provocation of bombing of one of South Korea's islands, Yeonpyeong Island. So North Korea has to apologise and earn its trust, if so Park Geun-Hye is willing to deal with North Korea and help it out in every way she possibly can.”


Last Updated ( Saturday, 22 December 2012 16:03 )  

Add comment

Asia Calling House Rules for Comments:
We reserve the right to fail messages that:
· Are likely to provoke, attack or offend others
· Are racist, homophobic or sexists or otherwise objectionable
· Contain swear words or other language likely to offend
· Break the law or encourage illegal behavior
· Include contact details including number or email address
· Are considered to be advertising or promoting a product or SPAM
· Are considered off-topic

Security code