[LETTERS to the editor]New PM bespeaks new politics

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[LETTERS to the editor]New PM bespeaks new politics

I am pleased to hear that the appointment process went smoothly for Han Myeong-sook, South Korea’s new prime minister, and further, that she is off to a good start.
She brings a wealth of political experience; Ms. Han was imprisoned for her beliefs under former strongman Park Chung Hee.
Now this is regarded worldwide as a badge of honor. A few years ago, South Korea’s first female prime minister-designate, Chang Sang, was rejected by the National Assembly on a 142-100 vote partly because she was accused of “padding her resume.”
It all hinged on a subtle distinction between two American educational institutions. Ms. Chang received her Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, founded in 1812.
That institution was ranked higher in Ms. Chang’s academic subject area, according to the United States National Research Council, than either the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania or that Catholic flagship institution, Notre Dame University.
Princeton University only began using the name “Princeton” in its title in 1896. The seminary, the university, and for that matter the Institute for Advanced Studies (where Albert Einstein held a research post), share in the use of its facilities.
It’s easy to confuse one with the other. And Ms. Chang was accused of allowing people to believe that hers was a degree from that “other” Princeton.
South Koreans in general and Korean women in particular aren’t going to allow themselves to be taken in anymore by such political shenanigans.
On May 31, South Koreans will elect 15 governors and the mayors of mid-sized and big cities outside Seoul. It remains to be seen if Ms. Han’s nomination will sway voters toward the ruling party in the elections, or any particular candidate.
Yet had the Grand National Party, headed as it is by the former dictator’s daughter, successfully denied Ms. Han the prime minister’s job, that minority political party would have quit the political scene quite abruptly with considerable civic strife.
I predict that, with Ms. Han at the helm, the bill to abolish the National Security Law in South Korea will pass quietly.

by Richard Thompson
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