Update: Results are in and with 51.64% of the vote, Park Guen-hye has won the South Korean Presidency. The NY Times says, "Voters appeared to prefer stability and “motherly” leadership over her opponent’s calls for radical change in how the country addresses economic inequality and military threats from North Korea."
With only a handful of female political leaders around the world, the outcome of today’s presidential vote in South Korea could make history. Conservative Park Guen-hye, the daughter of assassinated dictator Park Chung-hee, is running against liberal labor lawyer Moon Jae-in. This polarizing political battle has divided citizens along ideological and generational lines. In an article in the LA Times, Hahm Sung-deuk, a professor of political science at Korea University, noted that, “This is like George W. Bush versus Al Gore. You have conservatives against liberals and the animosity between them is very strong.”
As the global political landscape changes, we are seeing direct effects on government elections. Leaders are increasingly communicative and open, and work more collaboratively with other countries. Park Guen-hye is no exception, she has issued a public apology for her father’s human rights violations and has plans to engage with North Korea on foreign issues.
What may surprise many, is that in a strong paternalistic society such as South Korea a female candidate would be able to mount a challenge, let alone be the frontrunner to win the election. Yet, in our two year global research study conducted for The Athena Doctrine, we uncovered interesting data that helps explain this shift in South Korea.
After surveying more than 64,000 people around the world, we found that:
• 62% of South Korean men agreed that world would be a better place if men thought more like women, as compared to 57% of men in the United States.
• 62% of all adults in the United States were dissatisfied with the conduct of men in their country, in South Korea over 79% feel the same.
What we see in South Korea is a population that is changing the way it thinks about leadership. Today it is South Korea and Park Guen-hye where that change is coming to fruition, in 2016 it just might be happening in the United States. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, there is no denying that Hillary Clinton would make a formidable candidate not because of her gender but because of her competence and political deftness.