Today, 25 February, South Korea witnessed an historic occasion with the inauguration of Park Geun-hye as the 18th President of South Korea.
Historic for a number of reasons, but principally because it open a new era of female leadership within Korea.
Female leaders are not new to Korea, but it is a male-dominated society, and often in ways that makes it difficult for a woman to break into the boys club. Forget about the glass ceiling, first it is important to find the door. Korea is presently ranked 108th in the World Economic Forum’s 2012 gender-gap rankings.
To become the modern leader that it hopes to be, how the example of Park as an example of the possibility to shape a culture is received, will become part of her legacy in five years time when her singular term expires according to the Constitution of the Republic of Korea.
The last woman who governed Korea was Queen Jinseong of the United Silla Kingdom in the late ninth century. Park Geun-hye has the opportunity to reframe a new example of female leadership in a domain that is typically and traditionally male.
Historic also because by her return to ‘Cheong Wa Dae’, the Presidential residence, otherwise known as the Blue House. Park Geun-hye lived in Cheong Wa Dae as a young woman until late 1979 after her father, the then President Park Chung-hee was assassinated by his Director of Intelligence after dinner one evening.
Park is completing her own journey is some respects, not to say that she had any entitlement to return to Cheong Wa Dae. But in returning, she is doing it through a sense of responsibility to the position, not out of duty to her father’s legacy. And maybe that will be her first big challenge: to move out of her father’s shadow to become the woman that she is as a leader. And not principally her father’s daughter.