[Outlook]Women making a difference

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[Outlook]Women making a difference

There are a variety of ways for women to take part in elections.
I saw a video clip on a U.S. Internet portal in which middle-aged Korean women dance to Korean pop music on the streets during an election campaign.
Foreigners may think that Korean women are very active in politics. But it would be more correct to say that women, as low-paid campaign workers, are used as tools to attract the attention of passersby whenever there are elections.
Young women dance to fast music in front of shops when they are newly opened, while middle-aged women dominate street dancing to pop music during election campaigns. This is a combination of women’s poverty and a culture of depreciating women.
It is disappointing that political parties are not more imaginative in how to mobilize and use middle-aged women for their campaigns.
As political parties are dominated by men, even intelligent, experienced women politicians are not fully appreciated.
Well-known women politicians in all political parties are regarded as fronts for the parties and news articles about them are mostly about their looks and fashion tastes. The biggest interest is what clothes these women wear during campaigns and the size of the audiences that they draw. In the National Assembly, which resembles an army camp because it is dominated by men, it isn’t easy for women to become political leaders and to be appreciated.
As only one out of 10 lawmakers is a woman, women can’t help thinking and worrying about male politicians’ opinions.
Women politicians stand out only when the political parties make them spokespersons to ease tension between the complicated networks formed by its male members.
As a result, women politicians have no distinct characteristics or identities.
They stand out only because they are women. Their ideas and speeches do nothing to distinguish them from their male counterparts.
Fortunately, there are two women candidates in the legislative elections who present a vision for the future.
Both belong to minority political parties, and both are using fresh language that we are not yet familiar with.
Choi Hyun-sook, a New Progress Party candidate in Seoul’s Jongno District, is a divorced single mother. The down-to-earth candidate is a civic activist and the bread-winner in her family. Choi stands for the rights of women who are discriminated against in our society.
Judies Alegre Hernandez, a candidate to be a proportional representative for the Creative Korea Party, has been living in Korea for 15 years and is the mother of two children. She has become a Korean citizen but she sent her children back to the Philippines because of racism and prejudice in Korean society. She understands and can represent the harsh lives of foreign women who are married to Koreans and have moved to Korea.
These two women are fighting to protect the rights of Koreans who can’t enjoy their rights even though they are protected by law.
When the two women take seats in the National Assembly, Korean society can begin to change.
Politics are supposed to make the people happier and feel proud of their country.
Anybody who lives in Korea must not be oppressed, discriminated against or looked down upon on the basis of cultural differences, and everyone must be able to carry out their roles in society with enthusiasm.
The participation of these two women will help Korea start becoming a multicultural society.
Women often have rich experience that leads to good ideas for thorough reform and change. That is because women often mediate between the workplace and the home, linking the values of productive work to taking care of others.
As women have not held power before, they easily sympathize with marginalized people or minority groups.
When more women are trained in political activities, there will be hundreds of Chois and Hernandezes.
Today is election day. Korean society is feeling cultural fatigue from male-dominated, hierarchical party politics.
I hope that women politicians will be given a chance to change the culture of the National Assembly with their own philosophy and experience.
I also hope that in four years, middle-aged women won’t have to dance in the street any longer but instead will be holding the microphones giving speeches.
It will be good if National Assemblymen employ middle-aged women living in their constituencies as aides to create policies that uncover problems in the areas and seek resolutions.
Korean women must be invited to party politics in a fairer way.

*The writer is a professor of anthropology at Yonsei University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

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