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[Opinion] Uri Party Wants Kang

Posted January. 24, 2006 03:01,   


After serving as justice minister, Kang Keum-sil has refrained from entering into politics thus far. But she is being desperately sought after by ruling Uri Party lawmakers, who have promised her the Uri Party nomination for the Seoul mayoral race.

The governing party’s eagerness to win Kang to its side is beginning to look pathetic. Uri Party leaders have been quoted as saying, “If you refuse to accept our proposal, you (Kang Keum-sil) and all of us would be better off killing ourselves.” The ruling party’s urgency is exaggerated and somewhat comical. As Kang used to say, “They must be joking!”

But there is a practical side to the Uri Party’s renewed interest in Kang: her public approval ratings have never been higher.

Is the favorable publicity she is enjoying due to her gender? The answer to that might be found in Megatrends 2000, a book in which the author predicted back in the 1980s that the 21st Century would be a century of female leaders.

The author wrote that unlike in the past, when men dominated and ruled over organizations, the world of the future will be dominated by women, who know how to encourage and swiftly adapt to changes. The author added that female leadership would produce the greatest possible results if coupled with expertise in professional subjects including law, finance and medicine.

The author might have been working on the book while picturing in his mind a world where women like Hillary Clinton or Kang Keum-sil were politically active.

According to the book, in the near future, femininity, feeling and fiction will all be important in politics. And just as the book predicts, people are taking an interest in Kang’s clothes, the color of her muffler, and her artistic taste. Some consider her a “world-weary humanist” who enjoys solitude and dancing, and shows flexibility. Ironically, other psychologists describe her competitiveness as that of a “far-sighted modern sage” or “political novice and someone who is not likely to pursue a political career.” Her repeated refusals to run for office might be further strengthening the “fictional” image of Kang as someone who prefers the quiet life.

It is very rare for a public figure with no backing from a political faction or regional support base to be courted so relentlessly by ruling party politicians. Kang has yet to decide whether to accept the Uri Party’s offer. And as evidenced by the Uri Party’s efforts to woo Kang (who announced her resignation from the world of politics), the party is having a hard time finding suitable candidates for the Seoul mayoral election.

All eyes are now on Kang. It is too early to know whether she will run for the mayoral election. And depending on how one looks at the situation, the Uri Party can be seen as either carefully searching for an ideal candidate, or going after the wrong one.

Only time will tell which vision is true. The situation is reminiscent of a Chinese idiom that reads: “scratch-weave-cut-excavate,” in reference to searching for a hidden, talented person. Let’s see if the idiom is applicable to Kang Keum-sil.

Kim Chung-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com