The girls on the hill size up a newcomer

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The girls on the hill size up a newcomer

If you like women, and you like them to be in charge, you were probably happy this week when the right-wing Grand National Party tapped Park Geun-hye as its new chairwoman. Granted, she wouldn’t be there if she weren’t the daughter of the late dictator Park Chung Hee. But you still have to give her credit, because very few women have ever made it to the top of Korea’s political hill.
So what do the locals think of Ms. Park? It’s hard to tell. Ask ordinary Koreans if they like her, and you’ll get a shrug and a story about how tragic her life has been, et cetera, et cetera. There is one place, though, where the locals will give you ― among other things ― their take on Korea’s favorite daughter: the top of Itaewon’s Hooker Hill.
Perhaps the oldest juicy bar up there, One More Try, is a good place to poll for opinions of Ms. Park. Its most attractive girl, Mi-yeon, is from Daegu, just like the dictator’s daughter. Shown the cover of Wednesday’s newspaper, prettied up with the winning smile of the new Grand National chief, Mi-yeon smiled.
“I really like her, and yes, I think she is beautiful,” said Mi-yeon, who resembles Ms. Park if she were 20 years younger, had hip-length hair and wore a black silky dress. “I don’t think she could ever be president, though. Koreans will never accept a woman president.”
Asked if Ms. Park could lead the nation as well as President Roh Moo-hyun has, Mi-yeon said, “Of course. President Roh is no good. All this confusion we have in politics, which is really hurting the economy, it’s all his fault.”
Down the hill a bit, at the Texas Club, another barely-clad Daegu native, 29-year-old Mi-kyeong, said, “She’s all right, I guess. I can tell you, though, that I’m a lot smarter than Park Geun-hye. You know why? Because I’ll never go into politics. You have to be crazy to go into politics.”
Like her colleague at One More Try, Mi-kyeong dislikes the current president. “I don’t like Roh Moo-hyun because he doesn’t talk straight with the people,” she said.
At Flower, just beyond the crest of the hill, the staff cackled when asked if Ms. Park was attractive. “Beautiful? Are you crazy?” said Sang-hee, 25, a Seoul native in black track pants and bikini top. “Well, I guess she’s O.K. Not many people like her, though.” The bartender Ju-yeon, added, “I really liked her mother, Yook Yong-soo. She was quite elegant.” Ms. Yook, of course, was killed in 1973 by a North Korean bullet meant for her husband.
Of course, trying to get the girls on the hill to talk politics is like trying to get a politician to move into a tent. (Oops ― bad example. ) But once you put your newspaper away, the girls will start talking about something else, like how lifeless the hill has become.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they like the new Grand National boss: She’s promised to revitalize the party.

by Mike Ferrin
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