Yielding to outside pressure

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Yielding to outside pressure

The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Is gender discrimination that serious in Korea?” The day after the Korea-U.S. summit and joint press conference, a reporter from the White House correspondents pool asked the question. At an earlier press conference, a Washington Post reporter had pointed out the gender imbalance in the new cabinet, with an overwhelming portion of male ministers, and asked President Yoon Suk-yeol about the gender discrimination.

The reporter asked me if the Korean media and the public accepted the reality without raising any objection. I explained, “It has been addressed countless times by the liberal and conservative media, but nothing has changed.”

The joint press conference was broadcast in real time around the world when it was pointed out that the Yoon administration filled the cabinet with men and Korean women’s social status was low. White House correspondents say that the question was great, but Yoon’s answer was disappointing. He merely made an excuse, saying, “It has not been long since women’s fair opportunities in each job began to be secured more actively. So, not many women have made it up to the position right under the minister.” The reporters may not know Korea well, but they seemed to be disappointed about the imbalance in cabinet positions.

What is surprising is Yoon’s sudden change of attitude. He said, “I am awakened,” and selected all women for the additional four appointments of ministerial and vice-ministerial positions. Yoon completely changed his answer that he could not promote women because there are not enough female candidates who are prepared to take ministerial positions. It only took him five days to change his mind. It is regrettable that the most notable achievement at Yoon’s first summit with the U.S. was the improvement of the gender imbalance of ministers by appointing additional female officials.

Even so, some would welcome that the president has broadened his view. But we need to think about how he changed his view. Yoon’s attitude of being overly sensitive to foreign media and neglecting domestic opinion is quite outdated. He gave exclusive interviews with the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Voice of America (VOA) after winning the election. (He had his first interview after taking office with CNN.) The president has not yet met face-to-face with a single domestic media outlet. I have never seen a head of state of a major country, including the U.S., have an interview with foreign media first after taking office. The Yoon government claims to want to become a global pivotal country by strengthening foreign policy in line with Korea’s status. Such power comes from within, not from outside.
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