Thursday, December 20, 2012

Some thoughts on Park Geunhye's presidential victory

Here are some thoughts I've had on Park's victory:
  • Park will be inaugurated on February 25, 2013 and will still be president when the 2018 Winter Olympics come to town (Pyongchang, that is). In fact, her successor will take over on the day the Olympics close. It could be quite interesting to have a presidential inauguration going on in the midst of an Olympiad. 
  • Park's mother was assassinated in 1974 and the same happened to her father in 1979. If I were Ms Park, I'd have a kajillion bodyguards around me and put a metal detector in the Blue House that even my closest allies would have to pass through. 
  • Park was (I believe) the first person in Korea's democratic era to win the presidency with an outright majority (something, by the way, Clinton and Bush43 were unable accomplish in 1992, 1996, and 2000). While I'm happy this finally happened, I think South Korea should consider adopting run-off elections for the top two candidates if neither manages to get at least 50.0% of the vote. More on that later.
  • "M" from Kansai noted that this (i.e., having a female leader) is yet one more thing where Japan is falling behind Korea. (I long thought someone like Takako Doi of Japan's Socialist Party would beat Korea on this point by heading a coalition government.)
  • Park will not be Korea's first female ruler, since there have been queens who headed the government. However, by my accounting (and Sanshinsŏn backs this up), she is the first female ruler since 654 AD, when Queen Chindŏk was on the Shilla throne. Chindŏk worked with Kim Yushin to strengthen Shilla's defenses and improve relations with T'ang China, which laid the groundwork for the unification of the three kingdoms (Shilla, Paekche, and Koguryŏ). Will Park be as influential nearly fourteen centuries later?
  • While it's notable that Park is the ROK's first female president, some suggest she's part of a trend whereby conservative countries end up with female rulers only if they are attached to or associated with powerful male politicos. Park, of course, is the daughter of a long-time ruler who is seen as the architect of Korea's modern development. Her predecessors in Asia are the likes of Corazon Aquino, the widow of a charismatic Filipino opposition candidate who was assassinated by the Marcos regime, and Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of a former prime minister. Even in the United States, some would put Hillary Clinton (possibly the next US president) in the same category. But is it really fair to hold this against them? Many male politicians also ride the coattails of someone in their family or circle who had power. You may recall that Bush43, for example, is the son of Bush41. 
Syngman Rhee and
his wife Francesca
  • Park apparently professes no particular religious faith, although her father was a Buddhist. South Korea is an interesting place where there is a relatively high degree of religious pluralism and diversity but a relatively high degree of religious tolerance (and no, it's not perfect and problem-free). Past presidents have been Protestant (Kim Youngsam, current president Lee Myungbak, Syngman Rhee), Roman Catholic (Kim Daejung), and Buddhist (Park Chunghee, Roh Taewoo, Chun Doohwan), a reflection of the faiths themselves. President Lee has been criticized for pushing his faith onto others in government and even in the military in a way seen unacceptable by his predecessors; with Park the pagan in the Blue House, the government may go back to being secular and non-affiliated, which to me would bolster Korea's religious tolerance. (Emperor Kojong reportedly considered converting to Christianity, until he realized it would mean giving up his "wives" and other concubines.)
  • Born in 1952, Park is the first ROK president to be born after the Korean War began (June 25, 1950). She is only the second president to be born since liberation from Japanese Imperial rule (August 15, 1945). The other Was Roh Moohyun (born in 1946). Lee Myungbak was not only born while the Japanese were still in control of Korea, he was actually born in Japan and lived there until the age of five (1946) when his family resettled in South Korea. 
  • Unless she adopts, the Park political dynasty ends with Park Geunhye. 
With a margin of just under four percentage points, lawmaker Park Geunhye has won the presidential election and will take office in February. This marks a major achievement in South Korea, which has finally elected a female president while also choosing the daughter of a former dictator.

I'll have more on this later, but for now this is what CNN had to say:
The three major broadcasters in South Korea all projected a win for Park, the 60-year-old daughter of a former dictator who heads the governing conservative Saenuri party.

Park will assume office in February 2013, in a country grappling with income inequality, angst over education and employment prospects for its youth, and strained relations with North Korea.

South Korea is also a strategic Western ally and the fourth-largest economy in Asia.

"I hope the next president can put what the people want and how the country can develop before the interests of their own party," said Yong Sung-hwa, who voted in the morning.

As in many other elections around the world, the economy is the No. 1 issue for South Korean voters. Though the Asian country has fared far better than other countries, including the United States, during the economic crisis, its export-led economy has still felt the pinch.
That probably pretty much sums it up.


1 comment:

  1. Interestingly enough, I believe Emperor Gojong was at the ceremony where they laid the cornerstone for Myeongdong Cathedral.


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