ONTD Political

South Korea elects first female president

4:57 pm - 12/19/2012

Profile: South Korea's Park Geun-hye

The 60-year-old conservative follows the footstep of her father, Park Chung-hee, by winning the presidency.



Park Geun-hye of the ruling New Frontier Party has made history by becoming South Korea’s first female president, narrowly edging out her opponent, human-rights lawyer Moon Jae-in.

By winning the presidency, the 60-year old conservative follows the footstep of her father, late President Park Chung-hee, who seized power after a military coup in 1961.

Park Geun-hye's election will mean "a great deal" to South Korea's conservative and male-oriented society, said Hahm Chaibong, president of the Asian Institute for Policy Studies.

"For us to have a female president I think would have a significant impact on the psyche of the people," Hahm told Al Jazeera. "It would be a great boost for the women of South Korea."   

An engineer by training, she was first elected to South Korea’s National Assembly in 1998, serving five terms as a representative.

In 2007, she lost out to Lee Myung-bak in the party's presidential primary. Lee went on to become president, but the country's leaders are restricted to a single five-year term.

Father assassinated

The elder Park was assassinated by his own spy chief in 1979. Five years earlier, his wife Yuk Young-soo's was also killed by a pro-North Korean agent who shot the first lady while aiming for the president.

Following her mother's death, the younger Park served as her father's de-facto first lady.

Park Chung-hee won wide respect for transforming the poor war-ravaged nation into an economic juggernaut, but is also reviled in some quarters for his human rights abuses.

Still, many older South Koreans remember the almost two-decade rule with fondness and Park Geun-hye partly rode on the coattail of her father to launch her own political career.

Brian Myers of Dongseo University told Al Jazeera that the "senior vote" played a big role in the election given the country's rapidly ageing population.

At the same time, Park also had to appeal to younger voters who "really don't want to go back to that time," he said. During the campaign she was forced to apologise to the victims of her father's rule.

"She walked a tight rope," Myers said. "She's tried to signal to the older voters that she still got some of her father in her, and at the same time she's telling the youth vote that's she's going to be a completely different person."

Wealth gaps

With the country plagued by a growing wealth gap and high youth unemployment, Park has said she would work to improve welfare schemes and create jobs while committing herself to "economic democratisation".

On the eve of her election, she pledged to recreate her father'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..

Park also promised to safeguard the nation against external threats.

She cited North Korea's "provocations and nuclear threats" as well as territorial disputes with other countries, an apparent reference to the row with Japan over ownership of islands in the Sea of Japan.

"At this time of crisis, we need a prepared leader," she said, adding she would open a new era of peace and co-operation in northeast Asia.

source: al jazeera
rainbow_fish 20th-Dec-2012 02:22 am (UTC)
So I will fully admit that I'm pretty ignorant about South Korea's politics. That being said, I was happy to see they elected a woman. So I wiki'd her, and now I feel maybe a little less excited? Seems like she'd be a GOP member if she lived in the states?

Yay with reservations?
imnotasquirrel 20th-Dec-2012 02:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, she's a member of South Korea's conservative party. I'm not sure if South Korea's conservative party is as "out there" as the GOP, but considering how conservative SK can be in general...

My parents (who follow SK politics much more closely than I do) were both rooting for the other guy since they define themselves as liberal, but my mom says she's still reasonably happy that Park won and thinks that she'll do a competent job. At the very least she doesn't seem to be an incompetent buffoon like Sarah Palin? Low standards, I know.

Mainly I'm just amazed that a woman won, period, considering how deeply patriarchal Korean culture is.

Edited at 2012-12-20 02:36 am (UTC)
violetrose 20th-Dec-2012 02:45 am (UTC)
I assume you're South Korean? I hope I'm not prying too much lol. I'm curious to what your general opinion is? Park seems like a competent politician, but similarly, her fairly conservative views are disconcerting.

However, she seems to favour welfare to a degree and wants to improve its status and get those on welfare into better training programmes, and also help them further their education and thus, better their career prospects.

Edited at 2012-12-20 02:46 am (UTC)
imnotasquirrel 20th-Dec-2012 02:50 am (UTC)
Haha, no, sorry. I'm Korean-American, so I've only been (moderately) following the elections. I'm not as knowledgeable about the parties though, which is why I've been talking to my parents a lot about this. They followed the election much more closely.

But right now I'm of two minds. I'm glad that a woman "broke the barrier" and at least she's competent, but yeah, I'm kinda wary about what some of her other positions will be.
violetrose 20th-Dec-2012 02:55 am (UTC)
I feel similarly. It's good when a woman actually wins - but at the same time, just because they're a woman doesn't mean their political views are likable or will do good for other women.
homasse 20th-Dec-2012 02:45 am (UTC)
Although in some ways, didn't that patriarchial thing help her? A lot of people associated her with her father and voted for her because they'd liked him.

It's odd - I'm happy she won (OK, kind of blown away), but also wishing Moon had won, too.

But, hey. Moon promised to do a Gangnam Style horsey-dance if the voter turnout hit 65%, and it reached 75.something. I am seriously hoping someone holds him to that. Because dude.
imnotasquirrel 20th-Dec-2012 02:51 am (UTC)
I guess in a vague sense yeah, since she was riding on her dad's coattails. But it's all so wrapped up in sexism that it still amazes me.

Man, the voter turnout was AMAZING. I wonder what the US turnout was...
homasse 20th-Dec-2012 02:56 am (UTC)
This was the highest turnout ever in South Korea - the highest before it was 64% or something (which was why Moon promised the horsey dance if it hit 65%) and the race was mad close. The high turnout actually helped Moon, since he mainly got votes from younger people, and Park from older...which, yeah, given all the sexism, is really brainbendy.
imnotasquirrel 20th-Dec-2012 03:15 am (UTC)
If he doesn't do the horsey dance, I'm gonna cry foul.
homasse 20th-Dec-2012 03:54 am (UTC)
Same. I will feel cheated.
borrowed 22nd-Dec-2012 02:33 am (UTC)
I believed he promised to do it if the turn out was 77%, so no horse-dance from Moon :(

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/19/south-korea-new-president
homasse 22nd-Dec-2012 05:26 am (UTC)
Booooooooo~
violetrose 20th-Dec-2012 02:42 am (UTC)
Honestly, I don't always feel excitement the minute a female politician is elected if she's going to further and implement policies that hurt other women. I'm not simply talking about anti-abortion laws, but anti-welfare and the privatisation of things like education.

Abortion and equal are not the only women's issues in existence, and I feel many feminists can ignore this fact.

Her father was clearly a piece of work, from Wiki:

However he ruled the country in an authoritarian manner with his administration committing numerous human rights abuses. Academics are split regarding this legacy, between those who credit Park for his purpose in rebuilding war-ravaged South Korea following the Korean War and those who condemn him for his dictatorial consolidation of power, particularly after 1971.

So I'm only slightly happy. She seems like she wants to do some good - but similarly, her family's history still exists and her conservative views are there.
imnotasquirrel 20th-Dec-2012 02:46 am (UTC)
She apologized for her father's human rights abuses, but my mom's convinced that she wasn't being sincere. That's the one major reservation that my parents have about her, that (in their opinion) she still clearly holds her father in deep respect.
violetrose 20th-Dec-2012 02:50 am (UTC)
Yes, her views of her father are interesting. It's unfortunate, because he was her father - but he also committed some serious human rights abuses. But she similarly wants to win the vote - so it appears she's stuck between and a rock and hard place.

Her father's legacy and her political affiliation in general give me pause, but I genuinely hope she does good in South Korea and makes it a better place. She doesn't seem like a terrible person; but more, I just disagree with her on one or two issues.
oystermato 20th-Dec-2012 06:31 am (UTC)
SK's politics are very sketchy with corruption. The president after Park Chun-Hee's assassination by his own bodyguard was Chun Do-Hwan who ruled as an even worse military dictator that ordered fire on civilians. Kind of rings a bell with what's going on in Syria.

Another more recent president whose term ended in the 2000s, Roh Moo-Hyun, committed suicide after his presidency while he and his family were under investigation for corruption and bribery charges.

I side-eye anything about Korean politics because the origins of the country's political system are rooted in instability and SK isn't exactly the most open and accepting place, especially compared to the US. Don't let Gangnam Style fool you.

As a disclaimer, I'm also a Korean-American and don't know much about Korean politics and history beyond what I've lightly read. My parents aren't political and even if they are, it's difficult to talk to them about it due to a language barrier.
a_phoenixdragon 20th-Dec-2012 02:41 am (UTC)
Wow...I'm rather excited, curious and trying to not be cynical here. I'm holding hope that the new face, new ideas will lead to better for all of S.Korea - hell, all of Asia, really.
imnotasquirrel 20th-Dec-2012 02:41 am (UTC)
There was also a third candidate who ended up withdrawing. Her entire platform was apparently criticizing Park, lmao. This is an English translation of netizens making fun of the presidential debates:

"Park: What’s wrong with you, Moon?
Lee: What’s wrong with you, Park?
Park: What’s wrong with you all of a sudden, Lee?
Lee: Whatever, what’s wrong with YOU?
Moon: What’s the matter, both of you?"


pleasure_past 20th-Dec-2012 03:39 am (UTC)
I really do wish it were a liberal woman, but since it isn't I'm going to flip my way of looking at this and instead just say that if it had to be a conservative, I'm glad it was a conservative woman. It is really hard for liberal women to make it in politics in almost any country, and at the very least Park Geun-hye will help shut up all those "But women can't be leaders because [bullshit pseudoscience]!" whiners that inevitably exist in places where there haven't been any female leaders and that will make people more open to voting for a liberal woman in the future.

And no, I'm not saying that people should vote for conservative women over liberal men. Of course they shouldn't, one issue politics suck. I'm just saying that if a conservative was going to win anyway (and I think that in most elections one party or another does start with a clear advantage, though I don't know nearly enough about South Korean politics to say for sure that this was the case here) then I don't feel bad about rejoicing in the fact that it was a conservative woman rather than a conservative man.
lantean_breeze 20th-Dec-2012 05:29 am (UTC)
It's nice to see some progress happening there.
homasse 20th-Dec-2012 09:03 am (UTC)
I am a little bit worried about her stance on Dokdo/Takeshima, since Japan just had a massive political upheaval, so now the right-wing Shinzo Abe is going to become Prime Minister, and he's already making sounds towards being a lot more hawkish over the territorial issues with Korea and China. It's gonna be, uh, interesting.
the_physicist 20th-Dec-2012 09:17 am (UTC)
I don't really follow South Korean politics, but my colleagues suggested a lot of older and conservative people in the country came out in force to vote against Moon, rather than to vote for Park, based on Moon wanting to work towards a peace treaty with North Korea etc. He was too liberal for their tastes.
imnotasquirrel 20th-Dec-2012 02:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah, from what I've seen, a lot of the people voting for Park did so because they agreed with her stance on North Korea.
jadehunter 21st-Dec-2012 08:17 am (UTC)
Yup. My mom was worried he would win because of the NK thing. She said that the young people were voting for him because they hadn't suffered like her generation had, and that their soft hearts towards NK was due to ignorance.

I'm of two minds on this one. On one hand, I'm amazed that a woman won, but I really wish it had been a different woman, tbh.
the_physicist 21st-Dec-2012 10:39 am (UTC)
And I can sympathise with her, I really can. Because fuck North Korea's dictatorship. They do not deserve a peace treaty and to be recognised in any kind of way whatsoever. The main question has to be what course of action will get the dictatorship there to topple. I don't think anyone can easily predict at which point the people of North Korea will be able to unite against the communists. Looking at the collapse of other communist states I can't see if keeping sanctions in place is better than lifting them or not. My gut instinct is that aid should get into the country though, and Park has says she wants to do that, but otherwise take a hard line. I... think that is better than Moon's peace talks, but that is based off experiences with the fall of communism in other, far away countries. Just my gut instinct. It's such a difficult situation, but damn, it's so disheartening that North Korea has been so resilient.
magli 20th-Dec-2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
When a people democratically elect someone from a group that's never been elected before I always get so happy. So this woman seems to be a bit too conservative for my personal taste, but at least she's a sign of progress on some fronts, right? I mean, she could have been too conservative for my taste AND a man, which is what most of the world's politicians are. Four for you South Korea, you go South Korea.
chaya 20th-Dec-2012 02:33 pm (UTC)
cut pls <3
glass_houses 20th-Dec-2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
Hope she will be cool.
wickedwatch 21st-Dec-2012 06:46 am (UTC)
Pretty amazing that a woman got elected, especially considering how patriarchal Korea is. But makes me wary, cause the people I follow on tumblr who are more verse in Korean politics do consider themselves feminists are really against her being elected-->"Even worse when you figure out that their party has continuously been sexist, has lowered women’s rights such as outright making abortion illegal, putting uber Christian figureheads in ministries such as the ministry for education and ministry for women’s rights, oh and treated queers as subhuman." :|

Also from here: The Chosun Ilbo reports that the support of older voters played a pivotal role in Park’s win. One factor that sparked a high turnout among senior citizens: their anger over United Progressive Party candidate Lee Jung-hee’s appearance during the first candidates’ debate, when she launched provocative attacks against the ruling party candidate and her father, the late former president Park Chung-hee. “Older voters seemed to feel they were being treated as relics of the authoritarian era in the way Moon and Lee criticized Park Chung-hee, even though they worked hard for the country’s industrialization and may have opposed Park’s rule,” Seoul National University professor Han Kyu-seok told the Chosun.
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