[OUTLOOK]Parsing Ms. Chang's candidacy

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[OUTLOOK]Parsing Ms. Chang's candidacy

Revealing something of oneself to others is both an exhilarating and a frightening experience. Everyone has a hurt to hide and in order to heal that hurt, we cover it up and create a different self for others to see. It is not that hard to realize that sometimes the most extreme cases of arrogance are merely cover-ups to hide severe inferiority complexes. The same applies not only to individuals but to groups as well.

Human beings live in a dilemma of double identity where they continuously waver between revealing and hiding themselves. This double identity affects those who are at the periphery of society more than those in the center. The weak and the few are those who suffer the most from this culture of social duality.

I have always been critical of those "GI-village intellectuals" who always refer to American society as the ideal example of everything. It is my opinion that no society is as full of such duality as American society with its Hollywood dreams and its nightmares of real life. Despite those feelings, I felt a sudden confusion akin to having turned into a black American while I was watching the confirmation hearing of the prime minister nominee, Chang Sang. That is, I felt like a black American might have felt in 1991 watching the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, a black Supreme Court nominee. In the hearings, broadcast live on television for 10 days, Anita Hill, a black female professor who had worked for Mr. Thomas at the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor-tunity Commission, accused him of sexual harassment.

Conservative white men dismissed the charges; those who gave them some credence were mostly sympathetic and understanding of Mr. Thomas's "slight lack of judgment." Liberal whites and feminists were determined that his race was not going to save him from having to pay for his sins. Those who had the hardest time making up their minds were other black Americans. Those who supported Mr. Thomas were faced with the problem of whether or not to believe his denials of any wrongdoing and whether or not such charges should stand in the way of his nomination. Paul Gilroy, a professor of sociology, once observed that this kind of double standard is characteristic of a minority group and is found among colonized people, racial minorities and women, the "second-class citizens."

In any event, Mr. Thomas survived the controversy and was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Let's take a look at the case of our own double standard and what happened a few days ago when the National Assembly denied confirmation to Chang Sang as the first woman prime minister.

On the surface, the hearing seems to have been about allegations of trustworthiness involving Ms. Chang's ethics. But there is more beneath the surface. Controversy was expected, because this significant initiative in naming a woman for prime minister came not at the beginning or middle of an administration, when the government is at its strongest, but toward the very end of the term, when the powerless government flounders in political fighting.

The double standards that the mass media inflict on high-ranking female public officials have already been amply demonstrated, so could we seriously have expected them to disappear at the hearings? Those of us who had looked forward to the historic achievement of the first woman prime minister were made to go through a dilemma of conscience yet one more time. Should we consider the results of the confirmation hearing as having been biased because Ms. Chang was a woman? Or should we accept it as an objective judgment of her qualifications? The answer is neither but somewhere in between, and that answer will open doors at the hearings on another nominee that are yet to come.

Having watched Ms. Chang's hearings, it is my sincere hope that everyone has learned the folly of trying to become a high-ranking official for the sake of family prestige or other personal reasons. If the lesson is learned, Ms. Chang perhaps will not have been a scapegoat, but a touchstone for the establishment of higher ethical standards for public officials, male and female alike.

To elaborate, the standards and expectations that were applied to Ms. Chang, involving ethics, patriotism and a willingness to devote oneself to one's social role more than to personal family affairs, should be applied equally to all public officials and figures, including presidential candidates. In this way, our country will truly become a fair and civic country as written in the constitution without any double standards stemming from gender discrimination. The women of this land would finally start to break free from the agony of split loyalties and double standards.


The writer is a movie critic and a professor of film arts at Dongguk University.

by Yu Gi-na

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