Monday, April 9, 2018 at 7:26 AM

Backlash? South Korea’s First Female President Sentenced to 24 Years

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I have been championing the rise of women as heads of state for years.

Here’s to ‘the fairer sex’ – not only as indispensable guardians of home and hearth, but also as invaluable (and capable) stewards of the ship of state!

(“Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2005)

This is why I was so heartened when countries around the world began electing women, notably in Germany, Liberia, Chile, Australia, Thailand, Brazil, South Korea, and Jamaica.

Mind you, women have never amounted to more than 56 of 146 heads of state. Therefore, I have never been inclined to borrow that famous Virginia Slims line,

You’ve come a long way, baby.

Even so, I was shocked and dismayed when the backlash came. This manifested not only in many women leaders losing reelection bids but also in a resurgence of strongmen as their political bettors.

This latter dynamic played out in disheartening fashion during the 2016 US presidential. After all, Donald Trump was a prototype of the entitled men who have ruled the world since time immemorial; whereas Hillary Clinton was a prototype of the liberated women who seemed poised to supplant those men.

Yet he won.

On the other hand, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain always gave me pause. It was bad enough that she wanted to be more of a strongman than any strongman ever was. But she also displayed a disregard for the political skills of other women that must have dismayed even the male chauvinist pigs in her Cabinet.

In any event, her prime ministership (1979-1990) stands as a glaring rebuttal to the presumption I have argued in such commentaries as “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013, and “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, which includes the following.

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We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies  is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.

Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court, as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women. Arguably, there’s a direct correlation between their positions and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 – in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.

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The point is that I was in “rebuttal” mode when I refrained from commenting on the rise of Park Geun-hye of South Korea. I had read enough to suspect that her presidency would prove so thoroughly corrupt, it would rival those of Africa’s notorious kleptomaniacs.

Sure enough, here in part is how I ended up commenting on her fall in “Backlash against (Liberal) Women Leaders,” December 1, 2016.

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Most disheartening of all, this backlash saw a measure of vindication this week when Park Geun-hye, the first woman elected South Korean president, offered to resign.

The disgraced South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, has offered to resign and called on parliament to arrange her exit amid a corruption and cronyism scandal that has all but destroyed her administration.

Speaking in a nationally televised address on Tuesday, Park – whose single five-year term will not be officially over until early 2018 – asked the national assembly to set a new deadline for the end of her turbulent presidency.

(London Guardian, November 29, 2016)

Would that I could decry her fate too. Unfortunately, all indications are that Park is guilty as charged, which makes her offer to resign more Nixonian than honorable.

Reports are that she allowed her Rasputin-like confidante to misuse her good offices to peddle influence and rake in millions. The audacity of this misuse appears such that it makes the way Hillary reportedly allowed her husband Bill to misuse hers (as secretary of state) seem, well, positively charitable.

I have written many commentaries hailing the rise of women as heads of state. Therefore, it is perhaps prescient that I was as loath to hail Park’s election in February 2013 as I am to hail Trump’s today.

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The court finally sentenced Park to 24 years in prison and $17 million in fines.

[She faced] bribery and other charges in a case that exposed the entrenched, collusive ties between the government and huge conglomerates like Samsung. …

The conviction and sentencing represented a climactic moment in an influence-peddling scandal that … shook the country’s political and business worlds.

(The New York Times, April 6, 2018)

Park had already spent more than a year behind bars. She even caused a stir in October when she began complaining that she was too ill to attend any court hearing, including Friday’s sentencing. Evidently, it worked … a little; after all, prosecutors were demanding a 30-year prison sentence and $120 million in fines.

But I don’t mind admitting that I feel anger and sympathy in equal measure: anger because Park made a mockery of my long-championed proposition that women make better politicians; sympathy because, even though many of them were equally corrupt, none of her male predecessors suffered an equally justified fate … yet.

The past seven heads of state have all been embroiled in corruption scandals. …

All four of South Korea’s living ex-presidents have now either been convicted of corruption offences, or are in jail being tried or investigated for such crimes.

(The Economist, April 7, 2018)

Something is clearly rotten in the Republic of Korea …

Meanwhile, I fear it’s only a matter of time before Brazil does to Dilma Rousseff, its first female president, what South Korea has done to Park. Like Park, Rousseff has already been impeached. I commented on this fearful symmetry in “Chauvinistic Impeachment of Brazil’s First Female President, Dilma Rousseff,” September 1, 2016.

I declared her impeachment chauvinistic because it was self-evident that her predominantly male accusers and parliamentary judges were visiting the sins of Lula da Silva, her male mentor and predecessor, upon her.

But nothing is more foreboding for Rousseff than prosecutors convicting Lula (72) on a battery of corruption and money laundering charges last July. After losing all judicial appeals, he surrendered to prison authorities on Saturday to begin serving a 12-year sentence.

Related commentaries:
Glass ceiling
Theresa May
Backlash
Dilma Rousseff
Women make better politicians

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