2012년 7월 10일 화요일

Are Koreans ready for woman president?

Park’s victory would be comparable with Obama’s election over color divide 

 
Rep. Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party pledged to put the people first, if elected president in December, in a speech to launch her presidential bid at an outdoor gathering in Seoul, Tuesday. 

Seeking to be the ruling party’s standard bearer, the 60-year-old daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee is taking on one of the oldest taboos in Korean politics — the gender barrier.

If she beats it, her victory would go down in Korean history as something on a level similar to Barack Obama’s election as the first black U.S. president. 

“I won’t be distracted by anything or anyone, except the people. I will faithfully follow their will. They are the source of my power, and therefore I will only focus on how I can help them make their dreams come true,” said Park. 

Making a long-awaited announcement to join the primary to select a Saenuri Party candidate, the unrivaled presidential hopeful was seen as being more determined and tougher than ever before.

Park, who wore a red jacket, made the announcement in the crowded shopping district of Times Square.

Nearly 1,000 supporters gathered there, chanting and applauding when Park went over several points of her vision for the nation. 

Some of them waved the national flag and some held red balloons. Red is the logo color of the ruling party.

During an emotional speech, Park moved her supporters with the remarks on her unfortunate family members. Both her parents were assassinated while the late President Park was in power. 

First lady Yook Young-soo was killed by a North Korean sympathizer on Aug. 15, 1974 and her father was shot dead by the chief of the intelligence agency five years later. 

“After my mother was killed, I had to endure a life full of anguish and hardship. I was able to overcome the challenging times because I had to serve (as kind of a deputy first lady) and do my job,” she said. “After I lost my father years later, the intense pain and agony led me to seek an ordinary life.” 

Park unveiled three visions: to empower small- and medium-sized businesses and minor players with supportive policies, to create decent jobs and to expand a social safety net.

On North Korea, Park pledged to seek a trust-building process between the two Koreas to terminate the era of confrontation and conflict, hinting at a policy shift to engagement. 

She denied allegations that female stereotypes will make it difficult for her to be elected in the presidential race, despite her strong showing in recent polls. 

Answering questions from reporters during a news conference held at a hotel in Seoul after the outdoor gathering, Park said she was convinced that being a woman was no longer a stumbling block to becoming a president in Korea. 

The former ruling party leader noted she could benefit from her gender because assets that women have are considered more helpful to economic growth than those of men. 

Analysts pinpointed gender as the reason Park failed to be chosen as a presidential candidate in 2007 when she ran in the Grand National Party primary. Park was defeated by rival Lee Myung-bak, now the president, by a razor-thin margin. 

The former ruling party leader is the most viable presidential candidate at the moment as she has had the strongest showing in public opinion surveys. 

In a recent survey of a hypothetical competition with Ahn Cheol-soo, the popular IT mogul and Seoul National University professor, she is ahead by 4 percentage points. Before the April 11 elections, she was in a tight race with Ahn in polls. 

Her ratings continued to rise after the parliamentary elections through which the former ruling party leader proved to be a strong leader as she was behind the party securing 152 parliamentary seats. 

To run in the presidential race on the Saenuri Party ticket, Park has to win the primary slated for August 19. The ruling party competition is widely expected to be a rubber stamp to endorse the mighty politician as two of her rivals, Reps. Chung Mong-joon and Lee Jae-oh, gave up their primary bid to protest the ruling party leadership’s refusal to hold an open primary.