Tag Archives: Da

Day 28: Elections Are Here- Korean Politics and Women

15 Mar

It’s about election time in Korea. It will be held on April 11th, and the hopeful congress-men and women candidates are running around like mad chickens. One thing that the Korean media focused was the fact that the heads of the two major parties –Saenuri Party (conservative- formerly known as the Grand National Party) and Democratic United Party— and one minority party (United Progressive Party- I directly translated, and I’m not sure about their English name) are all women.

For Saenuri, the head is Park Geun-Hye. She is the daughter of a former president Park Chung-hee, who is known as a “benevolent dictator” who held his power for 19 years until he was assassinated. Han Myung-Sook leads Democratic United Party, and she was deeply involved in women’s activism, although not many people seem to know about this. She was also a prime minister for a few years. Lee Jung-hee is a former lawyer who graduated from an elite school yet she has always been with the non-profit law and labor activism. I read an article somewhere that when she was in undergrad, she took a class by Han and was motivated by the feminist education.

So doesn’t Korean politics look more or less over with this gender inequality stuff, no?

But in reality, only 6% of Saenuri’s candidates and 11% of DUP are currently women, and the actual politicians who are at the National Assembly participating actively in policy and law making are even fewer. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, only 44 out of 299 seats in the National Assembly were taken by women, and South Korea ranked 87th out of 143 ranks (there were more than 150 countries while some where ranked the same). This is even below North Korea, although they certainly have a very different system than the rest of the world. This is below the world average of 19.7% and Asian average of 18.3%.

There is certainly a long way to go for South Korea’s political scene to be more inclusive of women. We need more women in the National Assembly, because we need more policies and laws to accommodate the needs of every citizen of the country, not just half of its population (male population, to be specific). I would like to believe that policies and laws are meant to provide social frameworks that guarantee better democracy and human rights for everyone. I can’t imagine people who are not necessarily in need of maternity leave even thinking about the necessity of such laws or making a comprehensive, user-friendly policy. I’m not saying that men are not capable of making women-friendly policies and laws, but they are often hindered by male biases, not capable of seeing the other half’s needs.

I honestly don’t know what lies ahead of Korean politics this year, as there are elections for the president as well at the end of the year. But I hope that there would be more women in the National Assembly, speaking up for those who have been muted for long, whether they are policies on women or others who have been disempowered systematically within the society.

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