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Helen Clark’s Advice to Korean Women

Posted November. 21, 2005 08:40,   


When asked what are the qualities of a leader of the 21st century, Helen Clark (photo), prime minister of New Zealand, didn’t hesitate to answer. “They are consistent efforts, self-control, tolerance, humanity, and last but not least, a brazen face.”

She agreed to have a brief interview with Dong-A Ilbo in a hotel lobby in Busan on Saturday after the close of the APEC summit.

“Brazen face?”

Her answer suddenly relieved the nervous tension of the Dong-A Ilbo correspondent who was conducting the much-anticipated interview. It was virtually impossible to arrange interviews with international leaders who were racing against the time at the APEC summit under heavy security. This correspondent finally arranged an interview with the prime minister of New Zealand after nagging her aides, saying, “She is one of the international leaders that young Koreans, especially Korean women, want to meet most.”

She has so many titles that start with “first female.” She is New Zealand’s first female minister, first female vice prime minister, and first female leader of the labor party.

She recalled, “The toughest part in my career so far was to convince people that women can do something important and women can be leaders. To persuade people, I needed strong confidence in myself and a meticulous career path plan.”

She came from a conservative family. After marriage, however, she refused to use her husband’s last name. She decided not to have children for her career. At this point, we can understand why she needed a “brazen face” to break prejudices and stereotypes against women and to have so many “first female” titles.

She advised aspiring career women in Korea that the first question they need to ask themselves is “Why do I need this? What can I do?” She said, “The second thing to do is to find someone who deserves your respect and follow them as your role models.”

She stressed that the government has a crucial role to play in enabling women to make their dreams come true. She explained, “It is a prerequisite to offer a quality child care system so that women can fulfill their potential to the fullest when they have to juggle work and family life.”

She also gave some advice to female politicians and would-be politicians who have dreams of becoming the first female president in Korea.

“What you shouldn’t forget is that politics is not about power, but about service. It is important to build networks among women. And it is essential to expand the female support base. You should climb up the ladder step by step, whether it be a local city mayor or a lawmaker.”

She didn’t forget to boost the confidence of Korean women, saying “You have the capacity in yourselves to make your dream come true.”

This Dong-A Ilbo correspondent saw more of a human face rather than a brazen face when she finished the interview and left for the airport.

Jung-Ahn Kim credo@donga.com