Sunday, 4 November 2012

Electoral Candidates: Park Geun Hye

"... Park Geun-hye is an example of a woman who successfully applies elements of Confucianism to manipulate her image in the eyes of voters. At present Park Geun-hye is a major candidate in forthcoming 2012 presidential elections...."

          Although in Asian societies appreciation for women's public activities seems to be much lower than in the West, paradoxically women in Asia are capable of getting more power than their Western counterparts. Thanks to “brand” associated with their last name and power of the paternal clans, they are able to run the state or lead the political parties independently in certain circumstances. South Asian cases of Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto or the current kingmaker in the Indian politics, Sonia Gandhi, present the perfect example of such “brand” politics.

           Park Geun-hye is an example of a woman who successfully applies elements of Confucianism to manipulate her image in the eyes of voters. At present Park Geun-hye is a major candidate in forthcoming 2012 presidential elections.

            Park Geun-hye was born 5th February 1952 in Daegu to South Korean dictator – president Park Chung Hee. In 1974 she majored in electronics and graduated from catholic Sogang University in Seoul. In the same year her mother was shot in an attempted assassination of her father by North Korean agent. This way forced by brutal circumstances she entered the world of politics as the First Lady of Korea until 1979 when her father died in the coup d'etat organized by his own chief of intelligence (KCIA). Until 1998 she stayed out of politics. She worked as a manager at Korean Cultural Foundation and Youngnam University in her native town Daegu. In 1998 she was elected to the parliament from the list of Grand National Party (Hannara). She has been elected in every elections organized since then. In 2007 she lost primaries in Grand National Party to former Mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-bak. Despite dropping in polls she still remains a serious candidate in forthcoming presidential elections in South Korea.

            Such popularity of a woman politician in a country whose social system is so far dominated by Confucianism was decided probably by more factors than just changes in the legal system that enabled women to participate in the elections.

            Park Geun-hye had no political ambitions until 1998. She was then invited by Grand National Party to participate in the elections. It was a moment when Korean society was still painfully adjusting to the reforms imposed by International Monetary Fund after the economic crisis of 1997. It was then that Koreans remembered about president Park Chung Hee who persecuted political opponents, but on the other hand boosted Korean miraculous economic growth. GNP which emerged from small conservative parties decided to use growing positive legend of Park Chung Hee and put his daughter on stage.

          Despite leading GNP to a successful victory in 2006 Park Geun-hye did not win primaries when she lost to former mayor of Seoul Lee Myeong-bak. This year she managed to get over 86% in primaries and gathered hopes of all conservative Koreans.

            However she has not put any political plans, reforms or ideas up till now. Her official website contains only promises for future and daring visions of not clearly envisaged changes to come if people vote for her. If taken into account that she is already 14 years in politics, this is not big achievement. Using moral capital by appealing to her father's legacy and emphasizing filial piety, combined with personal charm and media image designed to address virtues supported by average voters had been so far enough tools to gain and maintain support.

         Exploratory study which I performed during 2011-2012 shows that conservative values are no longer appealing to the young generation, and due to survey performed on limited number of voters Park Geun-hye is critisized for being dictator's daughter and in this case family does no longer help.
Her father is revered by some for steering South Korea to economic and diplomatic power with North Korea at its doorstep. And he is loathed by the others for what rights groups call a long history of torture, unlawful executions and other abuses of power. He has been dead for more than 30 years, since his intelligence chief shot him down during a 1979 drinking party. But he has proven to be more and more problematic to his daughter's campaign.

 Park Geun-hye still holds chances to win 2012 elections. But I also see some room for the Black Horse: a person with no conservative legacy, with clear economic vision and someone who did not make it via connections, Ahn Cheol-soo. If there is an agreement between opposition candidates and Mr Kim runs against Park with Ahn promised to become Prime Minister, the whole picture will get even more tricky.

         Soon about Ahn Cheol-soo and  Moon Jae-in. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. In case someone wants to know from where I took this photo, it was probably taken from an official website of Mrs Park, and I have not a clue who is the author.


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