A Female First in South Korea
The country’s first female President takes office
PHOTO: Park formerly served as South Korea’s first lady following her mother’s death. (Lee Jin-man / AP Images)
MAP: North Korea and South Korea have been enemies for more than 60 years. (Jim McMahon)
March 8 is International Women’s Day. On this day, for more than 100 years, people have celebrated the achievements and historic milestones of women around the world.
Just in time for International Women’s Day, the nation of South Korea is celebrating the election of its first female President, Park Geun-hye.
South Korea’s culture is primarily patriarchal. This means that men have traditionally been seen as the decision makers in the family, businesses, and government. Even so, 52 percent of the voters in the December election chose Park to lead their government.
LIFE OF A LEADER
Park Geun-hye took over as President of South Korea in February. But this is not the first time she has lived in the President’s home, known as the Blue House. She first lived there when her father, Park Chung-hee, was President of South Korea. He ruled the country for 18 years, from 1961 to 1979, beginning when she was 9 years old.
After her mother’s death, when Park Geun-hye was 22 years old, she took over the role of South Korea’s first lady. She gained valuable political experience while greeting foreign leaders and attending to the state’s business.
Park went on to build her own career in politics after her father’s death. She took an active role in South Korea’s Grand National Party (now called the Saenuri Party) and became its chairwoman in 2004. After several unsuccessful attempts to become President, she was finally elected this past December.
THE KOREAN CHALLENGE
Park Geun-hye has many challenges ahead of her. South Korea’s closest neighbor, North Korea, has been hostile to the country for more than 60 years. Its leader, Kim Jong Un, has focused on building up the nation’s army and gathering new and powerful weapons. Park Geun-hye wants to work to build a better relationship with North Korea.
Park’s father is remembered for bringing economic growth to South Korea. But he mostly ignored human rights and used harsh treatment to silence anyone who disagreed with him. Now President Park Geun-hye wants to lead in her own way. She hopes to help bring more equality to the people in all areas of their lives.
Park promises to create a country “where all Koreans can lead more prosperous and freer lives and where their dreams can come true.”