Lee, B. J., Newsweek
Byline: B.J. Lee
A fierce woman takes the top job in a conservative country.
Park Geun-hye has long been one of the most powerful women in South Korea, and when she is sworn in next week, she will make history as the first female president of the patriarchal conservative country. For those who've followed the political career of the "Queen of Elections," as she is known, it isn't a surprising turn of events. Park, 61, is nothing if not tenacious--a tenacity she may have inherited from her father, the late dictator Park Chung-hee. Both her parents were assassinated, and she was herself once stabbed in the face by a disgruntled voter during an election campaign. Despite such adversity, Park has stayed the course to high office, leading her conservative Saenuri Party to numerous election victories--most recently in December, when she defeated her liberal rival, the human-rights lawyer Moon Jae-in, for the presidential office.
Such tenacity will come in handy if she is to resolve the country's many challenges at home and abroad. North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un continues to stoke military tension around the Korean peninsula. Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. Though Park took a stern tone with the ever-belligerent neighbor, warning that Pyongyang "will collapse" if it continues on this path, it was a blow to Park, who promised to establish a "trust process" with South Korea's neighbor.
Domestically, the president-elect faces the daunting challenge of implementing what she has termed "economic democracy"--expanded social welfare, more jobs for the young, and curtailing the power of the huge family-run conglomerates that dominate the country's financial system. …