Park Geun-hye’s style

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Park Geun-hye’s style

Korean men are afraid of being singled out in a crowd, so not many pursue fashion trends. In the male culture dominated by basic style, the only style outlet to express personal taste is the necktie. When a man is wearing a colorful necktie, you should beware. The color implies the ambition of the man who wishes to boast his presence. For the inauguration ceremony, President Lee Myung-bak chose a jade-color tie. For the third-year anniversary of his administration, he wore the same tie again. When Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo were negotiating a candidate merger for the December presidential election, they both chose ties in primary colors, signaling that they did not intend to yield.

In contrast, women’s fashion has an unlimited scope to express character and style, and it is hard to read the psychology behind an outfit choice. There are so many items - accessories, shoes and bags, to name a few. But President-elect Park Geun-hye makes it easy to read her mind. She has maintained a consistent style, keeping the same upswept hairdo for the last four decades. It is the classic style that was in vogue during the 60s and 70s, and her mother, first lady Yuk Young-soo, liked to wear her hair the same way.

The Moon Jae-in camp attacked Park for wearing “133 outfits in three years,” but the idea shows a lack of understanding of women’s fashion, as it means that for the 33 years since she left the Blue House, she purchased an average of four outfits a year. The Moon camp instead should have noticed that all the 133 outfits fall into the same design category - which illustrates her fierce adherence to her principles. Actually, she has been wearing the same suit and hairstyle for 32 years.

We can predict her style of politics for the next five years based on her fashion. It signals that once she makes up her mind, she goes for it no matter what. She has three variations - normalcy, prudence and combat-ready. When wearing a two-piece suit, the collar on her jacket expresses her mood. In normalcy mode, the collars are neatly down, while they are raised up halfway when she is feeling prudent. When she is combat-ready, she wears a jacket with many buttons, clear stitches and epaulets. If she puts on a belt, it signals a high alert.

In 2002, when she met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, she wore a long skirt and neatly folded collars, as she was being courteous. In 2005, when the then-opposition Grand National Party set up its headquarters in a tent, she preferred safari-style jackets. These days, she likes to wear mandarin jackets, with short, stand-up collars. The choice signals that she is being prudent and keeping a low profile.

Probably because of her prudence, the transition committee is also following her political philosophy, refraining from talking too much. And most citizens welcome the committee’s modesty. On the first day of its operation, chairman Kim Yong-joon pushed the committee into a bunker. He reminded the team of the laws on the interim committee and warned that anyone involved in controversy would be held accountable.

So the transition committee is unprecedentedly quiet, and naturally, the reporters are complaining about a lack of news. One day, Hong Ki-tack, a member of the economic division, appeared and gave oranges to the reporters waiting outside. When reporters surrounded him to ask questions, he quietly said, “Shut up!” The phrase has become a code word in the bunker committee.

Citizens generally approve of the modesty and prudence of the transition team. But there are concerns that it has turned into a quiet workshop. The architects of the administration are the elite forces who have to make a thorough diagnosis for the period. They should have an intense discussion over the prescriptions and strategic action plans.

The past administrations, too, knew that all of their president-elects’ campaign promises cannot be implemented for practical reasons. They also understood that failing to mediate friction between diverse social groups and interest groups would be fatal to the administration. Therefore, it may be better to go through the filter of the media. This wouldn’t be a big deal if her transition team makes a little noise.

The reporters are the messengers of the news to the people, so driving them away and treating them like curious onlookers is like pushing the people away. If the transition team comes up with a policy road map without communicating it a month from now and disbands, it will be the beginning of another fiasco.

So I hope the president-elect uses the opportunity to switch to “combat-ready” fashion mode and puts a belt on her safari jacket. The transition committee does not have to be exemplary. What’s the big deal if they make a little noise to thoroughly outline the 100-day operation, six-month strategy and one-year plan? When they are expected to draft a philosophy and action plan to realize the desperate tasks of grand integration and age of happiness, “shut up” is a completely inappropriate approach to citizens.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

*The author is a sociology professor at Seoul National University.

by Song Ho-keun
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