South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-Hye, has taken on a country at a crossroads. Firstly, the Asian powerhouse is slowing down along with most OECD nations. Secondly, its neighbour to the north has a new leader and involves tense peninsular relations. Thirdly, the country is facing a rapidly aging population.
However, the country took the first step towards determining its direction, in electing its first female president, Park Geun-Hye, on February 25th 2013.
Daughter of former strongarm leader, Park Chung-Hee, Geun-Hye is no stranger to Korean Politics. When her mother was assassinated during her Father’s rule in 1974, she was thrust onto the political stage as the de-facto First Lady. At age 22, she took on the responsibilities of hosting and building relationships with world leaders. She performed the role for five years until her father himself was assassinated in 1979.
Unmarried and without children, Park often referred to this time in her life as the beginning of a life committed to the country – putting her personal wants and needs aside for the greater good.
Although she has had to face criticism for being the daughter of a dictator, polls suggest her election was in connection with older voters. With close to 66 percent of voters over 50 voting for her, it is thought that they remember her father’s reign nostalgically as the time when Korea experienced dramatic growth despite the desolation of the post-war period in the early 60s.
Park’s election promises include: social welfare reform to adjust to the aging population; improve diplomatic relations with North Korea; increase income by more clearly defining legislation around the powerful chaebol; and encouraging innovation to revitalise economic industry.
Each of these objectives present large challenges and will test her transition management skills. If Park can make the moves she say she will, South Korea looks to be able to maintain and improve its position as one of the 30 richest countries in the world.
Park expects to increase government coffers by around $1.5 billion per year by regularising 6 percent of the nation’s shadow economy, and a further $1 billion through increased scrutiny of high earners.
Since her inauguration, she has already faced several challenges, including having to apologize on behalf of a presidential spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung, who was accused of sexually assaulting a Korean-American woman in a hotel in Washington. Park is also strengthening ties with Obama, and they are said to be working together to manage the controversies of North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un.
South Korea’s First Female President Gets a Gangman Style Inauguration
Korean rapping sensation Psy delighted the younger generation of Park’s followers at her inauguration on the 25th of February, performing his world hit Gangnam Style.
The artist, whose real name is Park Jae-Sang, was awarded the Okgwan medal from the Korean Order of Cultural Merit. The multi-platinum single Gangnam Style is the first online video to record over a billion hits and has won several awards, including American Music Awards New Media Honoree and MTV Europe’s Best Music Video.
Topping the music charts in over 30 countries, its famous horse-riding dance moves have been attempted by leaders such as British Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who applauded it as a “force for world peace”.