S. Korea’s woman president yet to pick women for Cabinet



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published — Tuesday 26 February 2013

Last update 26 February 2013 1:56 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

SEOUL: The country with the developed world’s biggest gender income gap now has its first female president, but Park Geun-hye already has South Koreans wondering whether she’ll improve the status of women in a society still dominated by men.
Wearing a traditional Korean dress of red and gold silk, Park strode up the steps of the presidential Blue House after her inauguration yesterday. So far, she has chosen only two women to join her in top positions — two less than a male liberal predecessor.
Park faces expectations that she will do something about pervasive sexism, and many other issues. Those include authoritarian rival North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test two weeks ago and warned yesterday of a fiery death for Seoul and its ally Washington.
South Korea also struggles with deep societal rifts that many trace back to the 18-year dictatorship of Park’s father. With a stagnant economy and job worries, there’s pressure for Park, a member of the conservative ruling party, to live up to campaign vows to return to the strong economic growth her father oversaw — the so-called Miracle on the Han River.
Park’s election in December was an important moment for women in South Korea, who on average earn nearly 40 percent less than men, the largest gap among the 26 member nations of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development. South Korean women are often paid less for doing the same work as men and seldom rise to the top of high-profile industries.
During her presidential campaign, Park criticized “traditionally male-centered politics” for corruption and power struggles, saying that “South Korean society accepting a female president could be the start of a big change.”
Critics, however, are taking note that Park has nominated women for only two of 18 Cabinet posts — and that one of those positions, the minister responsible for gender equality, hasn’t been held by a man since being launched in 2001. Park’s conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, also nominated two women to start his term, while former President Roh Moo-hyun, Lee’s liberal predecessor, named four.
Kyunghyang Shinmun, a liberal daily newspaper, pointed out in a recent editorial that there are no women among the 12 officials tapped as senior presidential advisers.
Park’s nomination of so few women is disappointing, as there was a high public expectation for better gender equality in her Cabinet, said Park Seon-young, a researcher at the government-affiliated Korean Women’s Development Institute in Seoul. Park either didn’t search hard enough for qualified women for her Cabinet, the researcher said, or such women were filtered out during a screening process.
Park’s inauguration was attended by at least one other female world leader, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso also attended. Before Park took her oath of office, South Korean superstar PSY performed his global hit “Gangnam Style” before tens of thousands. Children and the elderly alike joined him in the contagious horse-riding dance he made famous in the song’s video.
In her inauguration speech, Park mentioned North Korea’s Feb. 12 nuclear test, its third since 2006, calling it “a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people” and saying Pyongyang should abandon its nuclear ambitions and work for peace.
“There should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself,” she said.
As Park was sworn in, North Korea’s state media, referring to the North as a “full-fledged nuclear weapons state,” criticized Seoul and Washington over annual military drills that Pyongyang calls an invasion rehearsal, warning that the allies would “die in flames” if they attack. North Korea’s nuclear test sets up a challenge to Park’s vow to soften Seoul’s current hard-line approach to Pyongyang.
Pyongyang, Washington, Beijing and Tokyo are all watching to see if Park pursues an ambitious engagement policy meant to ease five years of animosity on the divided peninsula, or if she sticks with the tough stance of former President Lee Myung-bak. Park’s decision will likely set the tone of the larger diplomatic approach that Washington and others take in stalled efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“If Park Geun-hye wants to contain, the US will support that,” said Victor Cha, a former senior Asia adviser to President George W. Bush.
“But if Park Geun-hye, months down the road, wants to engage, then the US will go along with that too.” Park’s last stint in the presidential Blue House was bookended by tragedy: At 22, she cut short her studies in Paris to return to Seoul and act as President Park Chung-hee’s first lady after an assassin targeting her father instead killed her mother; she left five years later, in 1979, after her father was shot and killed by his spy chief during a drinking party.
Her first weeks in office will be complicated by North Korea’s warning of unspecified “second and third measures of greater intensity,” a threat that comes as Washington and others push for tightened UN sanctions as punishment for the nuclear test.
That test is seen as another step toward North Korea’s goal of building a bomb small enough to be mounted on a missile that can hit the United States. Pyongyang called the test a response to US hostility.
Park has said she won’t yet change her policy, which was built with the high probability of provocations from Pyongyang in mind. But some aren’t sure if engagement can work.
The economic aid and other benefits that North Korea would have received by “choosing electricity over bombs ... will be made much more difficult, if not impossible, for at least the next five years,” American scientist Siegfried Hecker, a regular visitor to North Korea, said in a posting on the website of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.
As she takes office, however, Park will be mindful that many South Koreans are frustrated at the state of inter-Korean relations after the Lee government’s five-year rule, which saw the North conduct two nuclear tests and three long-range rocket launches. In addition, attacks blamed on North Korea that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.
So far, Park’s transition to power has been rocky.
She began her first day as president with lawmakers deadlocked over her government restructuring plans, which include newly created or revamped ministries. Some of the people she has nominated for ministry posts have been accused of tax evasion, real estate speculation and ethical lapses.
Park handed top jobs to people with ties to her father, reviving claims in the campaign that she doesn’t fully understand her father’s complicated legacy. Park Chung-hee is both reviled as a dictator and human-rights abuser, and revered for leading South Korea from the economic rubble of the Korean War.
To help an economy facing weak overseas demand for South Korean products and record household debt that’s hurting domestic demand, Park plans to spend more than two thirds of the annual budget during the first half of the year, and announced an 18 trillion won ($16.6 billion) fund meant to aid debt-burdened South Koreans.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Three citizens, aged above 65, and a 32-year-old expatriate have died of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Riyadh raising the death toll to 471 in Saudi Arabia since June 2012, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.It also reported...
JEDDAH: Five hospitals and health centers across the Kingdom have been ranked among the 10 top hospitals in the Arab World, according to the Webometrics Ranking of World Hospitals 2015 conducted by Cybermetrics Lab. King Faisal Specialist Hospital an...
RIYADH: The children of the martyrs and wounded soldiers will be given preference for jobs in the organization, KACST President Prince Turki bin Saud Bin Mohammad Al-Saud said Riyadh on Tuesday.On an initiative from the Ministry of Education, a two-d...
JEDDAH: The laboratory of Al-Amal Complex for Mental Health was recently ranked fifth in the RIQAS program for biochemistry out of 120 laboratories. It also came in sixth in the same program for the department of hematology among the 60 participants,...
RIYADH: Anticipating high temperatures during the Haj season, the Ministry of Health has made arrangements to install more equipment to treat heatstroke patients among pilgrims, Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Al-Mirghalani said following a meeting...
RIYADH: The National Water Company (NWC) has added a new feather to its cap by launching an e-branch (website www.nwc.com.sa) to serve the customers around the clock.The NWC, which aims to become the leading water utility in the Gulf that comes under...
DAMMAM: Traffic regulations in the Kingdom and many countries of the world dedicate the right lane of highways and roads to trucks as they are designed to carry heavy weights in contrast to the other lanes, which are allocated for lighter weight vehi...
RIYADH: The solar-power plant, “Layla,” in Aflaj province, will be opened shortly, Saleh Al-Awaji, chairman of Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), has said.The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) is one of the signatories, along with King Abdulaziz City for...
RIYADH: The expanded facility for machine readable passports (MRPs) at the Embassy of Pakistan will help the mission process over 1,200 applications on daily basis. The new setup was inaugurated on Tuesday.Saudi Arabia hosts the largest Pakistan comm...
RIYADH: The Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) has directed manufacturers and their agents in the Kingdom to strictly follow the safety regulations for the new cars to be marketed to the Kingdom beginning 2017.In a statement r...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Social Affairs recently honored 20 academically gifted orphans whom it had earlier sent to Japan for ten days to visit attractions that include cultural and educational institutions. Ministry of Social Affairs Undersecretary D...
JEDDAH: Prince Bandar bin Abdullah, member of the board of trustees of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Foundation for Humanitarian Action, spoke at the World Scout Jamboree in Japan. He expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the invi...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Health has issued a circular to all health sector employees to ensure they sterilize their hands prior to dealing with patients.The circular, issued by Deputy Minister for Public Health Dr. Abdul Aziz Abdullah bin Saeed, is in...
JEDDAH: The Indonesian Consulate and community have been conducting their 70th Independence Day celebrations for the past three months by having different cultural and social activities. On Tuesday, the consulate arranged a blood donation camp with t...
JEDDAH: The Specialized Penal Court in Jeddah on Tuesday issued a preliminary verdict on the imprisonment of two Saudi suspects to 38 years.The first suspect was charged with firing on the police center in Awamiyah, Qatif Province, while the other wa...

Stay Connected

Facebook