Park backs merit-based appointments
President-elect Park Geun-hye pledged Thursday to appoint people to important positions based on their merits, not hometowns or school ties.
“I will do my best to end the history of division here by adopting measures for reconciliation and putting a halt to cronyism in public service,” Park said at the ruling Saenuri Party’s headquarters. “I will appoint people from all generations, regions and gender for key government posts.”
Her remarks addressed one of the key common complaints against past and current governments as the sources of division.
At the start of his presidency, the incumbent President Lee Myung-bak lost a great deal of credibility when he gave plum jobs to his Korea University alumni and church associates.
Park won the Wednesday election with support of 51.7 percent, showing that the remaining “nearly half” gave their support to her former rival Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party.
Park also got her diplomatic efforts off.
The President-elect met U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xinsen, Ambassador Bessho Koro from Japan and Russian Ambassador Konstantin V. Vnukov.
Details of the closed-door meeting were not known.
The President-elect’s separate meetings with the envoys came amid heightened security tensions in Northeast Asia after North Korea launched a long-range rocket, and leadership changes in countries concerned with the region.
U.S. President Barack Obama won a second-term last month, while China’s new leader Xi Jinping is set to take over in months. In Japan, rightist leader Shinzo Abe was elected Prime Minister, igniting speculation that Korea-Japan ties could turn further sour if not properly managed.
On Thursday, Park reaffirmed that she would mobilize diplomatic efforts to bring peace and build partnerships to counter North Korea in a coordinated manner.
“The presidential election was held in the midst of a shift of the security environment on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s launch of the long-range rocket led us to realize the grim situation facing the nation,” the President-elect said.
“Concerns are also growing over regional tensions in East Asia and the global economy… I will live up to my commitment that I will play a role in opening a new era for the Korean Peninsula by building up security and launching trust-based diplomacy.”
Park began her official schedule as President-elect by visiting the National Cemetery in Dongjak-dong to pay tribute to national leaders, who are buried there.
In the visitors’ book, she wrote, “I will begin a new era by bringing about change and reform.”
Park is expected to appoint the head of the presidential transition team and its members as early as next week.
Following Park Geun-hye's election as Korea's first woman president, pundits are wondering what sort of leader she will make. Park played up her supposed womanly qualities during the election campaign, and this apparently persuaded some voters.
But what is a feminine leadership style, and how is Park likely to shape up in comparison with other prominent female leaders?
◆ Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel?
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is one yardstick for a feminine leadership style. Known as the "Iron Lady" for her assertive ways, she was re-elected prime minister three times from 1979 to 1990.
But Park is apparently more influenced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an altogether milder presence on the international stage. The president-elect wrote in her autobiography that there are many things she has in common with Merkel, including economic and diplomatic goals, the fact that they both came from conservative ruling parties and that they studied science.
Other pundits compare Park to obscurer figures like former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, whose term ended in 2010, since she seeks to pursue social cohesion. Bachelet is viewed as having played a role in uniting Chilean society, which had remained deeply divided for many years after military dictatorship ended.
Female leaders are often said to be somehow more sympathetic and considerate than men. In Korea, men prefer a leadership style based on command and control, while women seek leadership based on social reciprocity. "Unlike men, who are used to authoritarian and male-dominated styles of leadership, women tend to place the importance on human bonds, consideration and cooperation," said Kim Kwang-woong at Seoul National University. "As a result, more importance is placed on sympathy, harmony and persuasion rather than conflict, feuding and command."
Experts claim another strong point of women leaders is that they are less prone to corruption. "Generally speaking, female leaders have a higher chance of being free from corruption than male leaders," said Ka Sang-joon at Dankook University. "Park has no husband or children so people think that all she has to worry about are her siblings."
Park used this as a selling point during her campaign.
But Park's leadership will be tested in traditional male domains like national security and crisis management. "When it comes to a woman president, the public is especially jittery about defense and relations with North Korea," Ka said. "Women leaders score high in the areas of welfare and social unity but can appear weak in terms of security and defense," said Lee Nae-young at Korea University.
There are also concerns that most of the officials Park has to deal with are men, which could lead to difficulties in communication. This means a "womanly" leadership style focusing on communication and sympathy could be less efficient.
But experts say Park's own style is fairly gender-neutral. "Park appealed to the public with her warm and soft touch, but she can be adamant when it comes to her principles and places a lot of importance on trust, which are commonly associated with male leaders," said Choi Jin of the Institute of Presidential Leadership.