South Korea’s New Sex Symbol

25 Feb

President Park the SecondPark Geun-hye is now South Korea’s 11th president and the first woman to rule any Confucian state. Promising a “second miracle on the Han” with “ordinary citizens” seated with dignitaries, Park made some remarkable proposals in her inaugural address, a few I would like an American senator or famous entertainer to utter.

A creative economy is defined by the convergence of science and technology with industry, the fusion of culture with industry, and the blossoming of creativity in the very borders that were once permeated by barriers.

It is about going beyond the rudimentary expansion of existing markets, and creating new markets and new jobs by building on the bedrock of convergence.

At the very heart of a creative economy lie science technology and the IT industry, areas that I have earmarked as key priorities.

I will raise our science and technology to world-class levels. And a creative economy will be brought to fruition by applying the results of such endeavors across the board.

(…)

One of my critical economic goals is to ensure that anyone that works hard can stand on their own two feet and where, through the support of policies designed to strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises, such businesses can prosper alongside large companies.

By rooting out various unfair practices and rectifying the misguided habits of the past which have frustrated small business owners and small and medium-sized enterprises, we will provide active support to ensure that everyone can live up to their fullest potential, regardless of where they work or what they do for a living.

(…)

Our educational system will be improved so that students can discover their talents and strengths, fulfill their precious dreams and are judged on that bases. This will enable them to make the best use of their talent upon entering society.

There is no place for an individual’s dreams, talents or hopes in a society where everything is determined by one’s academic background and list of credentials.

We will transform our society from one that stresses academic credentials to one that is merit-based so that each individual’s dreams and flair can bear fruit.

(…)

The new administration will elevate the sanctity of our spiritual ethos so that they can permeate every facet of society and in so doing, enable all of our citizens to enjoy life enriched by culture.

We will harness the innate value of culture in order to heal social conflicts and bridging cultural divides separating different regions, generations, and social strata.

We will build a nation that becomes happier through culture, where culture becomes a fabric of daily life, and a welfare system that embodies cultural values.

(…)

It is my sincere hope that North Korea can progress together as a responsible member of the international community instead of wasting its resources on nuclear and missile development and continuing to turn its back to the world in self-imposed isolation.

There is no doubt that we are faced today with an extremely serious security environment but neither can we afford to remain where we are.

Through a trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula I intend to lay the groundwork for an era of harmonious unification where all Koreans can lead more prosperous and freer lives and where their dreams can come true.

Being optimistic, Park must do a lot to make this rhetoric a reality. Actually I don’t know what “spiritual ethos” is or how it “permeates” walls and skulls, but it sounds fairly illiberal to me. The Korean language even in translation sounds vacuous and contrived to me, full of big nouns and not enough adverbs and adjectives. The science part was welcome, but placing responsibility for its promotion into a new ministry makes the proposal sound like an afterthought. What else would an ally want for a reward for his support? Educational reform is really welcome, but it sounds like the sort of reform professors would support. It’s remarkable she didn’t use the word, “exam”. And, how can North Korea be a member of the international community when South Korea doesn’t recognize it as a state, and those “ordinary citizens” on the dais are probably too afraid to speak about the cousins up north for fear of a National Security Law that’s still on the books.

The symbol of a woman as a South Korea Korean executive is a public relations coup worthy of a well-heeled chaebol operation. Park isn’t the slickest advertisement, but she’s no role model either. It’s not congruent to speak of creativity and happiness when Park’s success rests on her name, a particularly misogynist style of illegal governance, and a party apparatus cobbled together to get any non-leftist elected.

Park won the election with the catchphrase a “prepared female leader.” Her campaign featured a series of pledges to promote gender equality, protect women from discrimination and violence and boost support for balancing career and motherhood.

The election of the first female head of state may be a milestone in women’s empowerment in Korea, according to some observers.

“The election of a female president will have far greater impact on our society than putting a woman in any other position,” said Kim Myeong-ja, who heads the Korean Federation of Women’s Science and Technology Associations.

“Having a female as the head of the state will come as a fresh surprise and shock to children and adolescents and other developing countries that take South Korea as a model.”

But the significance of having a female president is still bitterly contested even among feminist circles and hopes for the improved status of women have quickly fizzled mainly due to the paucity of women among her government nominees.

The fiercest criticism came from female leaders and women’s rights activists.

“I don’t really see her as a female leader,” said the main opposition Democratic United Party’s Rep. Kim Sang-hee, who chairs the National Assembly’s Gender Equality and Family Committee.

“She became the ‘queen of elections’ by rekindling the favorable memories attributed to her father. I don’t think she represents women or female leaders per se, so I don’t think her election represents a groundbreaking moment for Korean women.”

Few women can dedicate their entire live to the nation as a maternal figure, and most women would at least prefer a choice between motherhood and career, if not one that’s not offered to them like a multiple choice test. Putting “ordinary citizens” on the dais only shows how Park wants to open the barriers of corruption just a little more accessibly for a few tokens like herself. Her election doesn’t represent a popular movement. In short, Park Geun-hye is a cynical advertisement for Corporation Dae Han Min Guk.

But, she sure looked good, she can use complete sentences, and she can compete with Kim Jong-eun in the cramped contest that is the Korean aristocracy.

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