Blue House adapts to first woman president

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Blue House adapts to first woman president

The inauguration of Park Geun-hye as the country’s first woman president has brought about a series of changes to the Blue House.

The most conspicuous was the surge in the number of female dignitaries from abroad who visited Korea to attend the presidential inauguration.

According to the Blue House, Park received 10 women leaders from around the world during her first two days in the office. That’s 10 times more than five years ago.

In 2008, Condoleezza Rice, then U.S. secretary of state, was the only woman leader among the 12 foreign delegates received by President Lee Myung-bak during his first two days in the Blue House.

Among the women leaders who met with Park include Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong, Peruvian First Vice President Marisol Espinoza and Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan of Vietnam.

“Many foreign countries sent delegations led by women leaders who hold the highest ranks in their governments,” Kim Haing, Blue House spokeswoman, said on Thursday.

“The atmosphere was very different from the past inauguration ceremonies. It reflects Korea’s heightened status in the international community, and the governments are showing their respect for the inauguration of Korea’s first woman president.”

During Park’s presidency, the Blue House will also see some changes to accommodate the country’s first woman president. The number of female body guards escorting the president at close proximity is expected to increase.

During the inauguration ceremony and her meetings with the foreign dignitaries at the Blue House, female security agents were seen escorting her.

The Presidential Security Service has recruited female agents since 2004. As of now, the service has about 10 female agents.

During the Lee administration, the female agents were normally in charge of the details for the first lady and other members of the presidential family. Their assignments, however, will likely change because Park is also Korea’s first unmarried president.

It remains to be seen who will play the traditional role of the first lady. Park, after her mother’s assassination, served as an acting first lady from 1974-79, but no decision has been made as to who will play the role during her presidency.

Speculation is high that the spouses of the prime minister and foreign minister will greet the spouses of foreign dignitaries as part of presidential diplomacy. Others also said Cho Yoon-sun, nominated to be Park’s minister for gender equality, could also perform the role.

Kim, Park’s spokeswoman, said yesterday that no decision has been made yet.

“Isn’t it such a stereotype that we must have a first lady just because we used to have one in the past?” Kim said.

While past presidents often invited their favorite barbers to the Blue House to cut their hair, Park is expected to invite her longtime hairdresser to craft her style. For years, Park has maintained the same hairstyle, a voluminous updo reminiscent of her mother.

Sources at the Blue House also said Park is expected to invite a female physician or at least include one female doctor in her medical team.

Remodeling of the presidential office also reportedly took place to better accommodate the woman president.



By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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