[EDITORIALS]Han has heavy burdenAs the National Assembly passed the bill approving the premier-designate Han Myeong-sook, the first woman prime minister has been born. Four years have passed since the National Assembly voted down the appointment of former Ewha Womans University president Chang Sang, designated as premier in the later term of former President Kim Dae-jung. In addition to Prime Minister Han, many women are now active in Korean politics, including the major opposition Grand National Party chairwoman Park Geun-hye and the governing Uri Party’s Seoul mayoral candidate Kang Kum-sill. Korean society appears to be pursuing gender equality in its truest sense.
Ms. Han has contributed greatly to activism for women’s issues, to the degree of being dubbed the “godmother” of the field. She took the lead in uniting more than 20 women’s groups to establish the Korea Women’s Associations. Ms. Han was also the first minister for gender equality. Therefore, it is proper to expect that Ms. Han is at least far from the Korean political scene, where men have prevailed using connections from their places of birth and so on. We expect Ms. Han to take the lead in eradicating this deeply rooted system of corruption in politics and the administration. Her relationship with the opposition parties is also significant. Ms. Han once described Ms. Park as the “daughter of a dictator.” However, we were relieved to see Ms. Han express her regrets for that past description, at her confirmation hearing at the National Assembly. Ms. Han also said, “I respect the Grand National Party as the major opposition party elected by the nation.”
Prime Minister Han must also jump over the fence of “women.” The prime minister has to coordinate conflicts among the various interest groups in society, while serving as the tuner of different opinions in policy in government offices. To do so, a prime minister needs power as a negotiator and coordinator, along with a thorough understanding of policies. A gentle image or femininity is not a key quality needed by a prime minister. President Roh Moo-hyun said he would keep his longtime stance of having a “powerful prime minister,” which places a heavy burden on Ms. Han’s shoulders.
Korean society is now suffering from conflicts and divisions. We are divided by ideologies, generations, wealth and regions. Considering Ms. Han’s career, there are some who worry she may run the administration only from one side’s view. We expect Ms. Han to be a leader who settles conflicts and heals the wounded hearts of the public.