Aiming to be S. Korea’s first woman president
SOUTH KOREA: If Park Geun-Hye is elected South Korea's
first-ever woman president on Wednesday, she will lead a country that is
ranked below the likes of Suriname and the United Arab Emirates in
South Korea's journey from war-torn poverty to Asia's fourth-largest
economy has done little to break the male stranglehold on political and
commercial power in what in many ways remains a very conservative
Women occupy a mere 15 percent of seats in parliament and, in the
private sector, only 12 percent of managerial positions at 1,500 major
firms. They also earn nearly 40 percent less than men -- the biggest pay
gap among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
group of nations.
Against this bleak backdrop, the ruling conservative party candidate
and her supporters claim her elevation to the presidential Blue House
would pave the way for greater rights for women in general.
Park led opinion polls for most of the campaign, fought on issues
like economic reform, welfare and job security, but the last surveys
showed her liberal rival Moon Jae-In, from the main opposition
Democratic United Party, closing in.
As the daughter of the late military strongman Park Chung-Hee, the
60-year-old Park is a polarising figure for many South Koreans.
Critics accuse her of being autocratic and aloof and suggest her
political legitimacy is solely derived from her father, who remains both
admired as the country's economic saviour and reviled as a dictator. She
is adored by older conservative voters, who feel she shares her father's
leadership qualities and view her as something of an ill-fated princess
who lost both parents to assassination but managed to rise above the