Will Yoon’s tale end happily ever after?

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Will Yoon’s tale end happily ever after?


When she was young, the world told her that women should get married and support their husbands. But she chose a different path. After graduating from a regional women’s college, she earned a master’s degree and a doctorate over 11 years and spent more than 10 years lecturing in different schools until settling down as a researcher.

Now, she is 57 years old with no first-class resume, no outstanding research accomplishments, no husband and no house. Her life has been far from “mainstream.” But one day, she turned out to be a Cinderella. The president brought her a glass slipper and told her that it was hers by appointing her the minister of oceans and fisheries. All fairy tales would end here with “happily ever after.”

However, Yoon Jin-sook’s story goes on. Her first stage was not a debutante ball but a confirmation hearing. There, she bashfully laughed and admitted what she didn’t know and what she had forgotten. Everyone asked why she pretended to be the owner of the glass slipper when she was not competent. But Prince Charming still didn’t care and took her to the castle.

If this were a fairy tale, I would have applauded. Success of a non-mainstream character makes society more hopeful and colorful. But I feel anxious because I cannot trust her competence. The most worrisome part is her hopelessly naive speech and conduct. She always sticks to honesty when people would have been more assured if she had pretended to know what she didn’t, and feigned modesty and prudence instead of making excuses.

Should we praise her for honesty? That only works in fairy tales. In the real world, we often show more respect to someone who seems competent instead of someone who is actually competent. That’s why academic and family backgrounds and appearances count. Call me a hypocrite, but the mundane world believes the backgrounds and worldly wisdom of the leader make the organization competitive. If a leader shows her limits and gets criticized, she has a hard time controlling the organization and fending off external pressure. So, the criticism may be excessive, but the concerns are not.

But now, she is the minister of oceans and fisheries, and we need to stop attacking. If the newly established ministry is affected by external pressure, it could undermine the national interest. If it is irreversible, we need to offer help and wait for Yoon to display her leadership. The ministry has many veteran working-level officials. If they don’t join the bullies and work together to stand up for her, there’s nothing the ministry cannot accomplish.

She has just begun her ministerial position, so opportunities are waiting down the road. We all love the success stories of rising from nothing and overcoming obstacles. If she succeeds, it would be the best happy ending for the country. I hope Yoon Jin-sook’s tale ends with “happily ever after.”

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yang Sunny
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