Woman of Destiny

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Park Geun-hye
Park Geun-hye

Park Geun-hye, first female president-elect of South Korea joins the league of female heads of government around the world

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Dec. 31, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

THE number of women as heads of government rose by one in 2012. On December 19, South Koreans elected Park Geun-hye as their president thereby making her the first woman to occupy the position in the history of the country. Her election has been seen as a great victory for women in South Korea, considering the country’s  rank in terms of gender inequality by the World Economic Forum.

 The 60-year-old career politician will be inaugurated as the country’s president in February 2013. She is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, former military president, who ruled the country from 1961 to 1979.

In her acceptance speech after the election, Park Geun-hye promised to fulfil all her campaign promises. “By keeping everyone’s support and trust in mind, I will definitely open an era of peoples’ happiness in which everyone can enjoy some simple pleasures and their dreams can come true,” she said.

Park Geun-hye made women’s rights one of the cornerstones of her campaign. She promised to ensure a “women’s revolution” in South Korea, along with other issues, especially an improvement in child care. The word revolution might be a bit of a stretch. According to her critics, her feminist credentials are somewhat lacklustre, and her identity as a woman has never been front and centre until this campaign. The question remains whether she can make good her pledge of changing the reality of South Korean women without alienating the more conservative old-school members of her party.

Her presidency would encourage educated and accomplished South Korean women to join politics. Her presence will increase the participation of women in the country’s work-force in order to meet the level of their peers in advanced economies. A South Korean woman can expect to make an average of 39 per cent less than a man in the same job. Women are also overrepresented among contract workers, who often don’t get benefits, even if they work for irregular hours but are paid less. There is a lot to do.

As the world’s 11th biggest economy, the greatest challenge facing Park is how to find a balance between her more populist campaign rhetorics of lowering the cost of education, helping women access affordable child care and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.

South Korea has now joined the league of countries governed by women. These countries include Germany, Liberia, India, Argentina, Iceland, Bangledesh and Lithuania. Others are Costa Rica, Malawi, Brazil, Jamica, Slovakia, Serbia and Denmark.

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