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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

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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 gender equality.

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 nation.

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 tragedy.

AFP

 

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