Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Women on the Rise: New Korean Prime Minister Han Myeong Sook

Women have gained significant roles in Korean society. Perhaps, the most obvious change is seen in Korean politics. The new Korean Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook is representative of not only changing norms but her life is a testimony to the casue in Korea.

PROFILE Han, Myeong-sook
Born in 1944 in Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea, Han, 62, devoted herself to pro-democracy activities and led the country's women's movement before entering politics in 2000 during the Kim Dae-jung administration.

Dreaming of being an author, she entered Ewha Womans University in Seoul as a French literature major in 1963.

But her life changed after she met husband-to-be Park Sung-jun, a pro-democracy activist during the Park Chung-hee government in the 1960s and 1970s. Both were members of a Christian students' club.

Park, now a professor at Sungkonghe University, was jailed for 13 years for his pro-democracy activities only six months after the two married in 1968, and Han later followed in her husband's steps.

In 1970, she began work at the Christian Academy, an institute run by activists and religious leaders to bring educational programs to farmers, women and urban laborers.

But the authoritarian Park Chung-hee government labeled the academy a pro-North Korean group, detaining

In 2001, Han had her honor restored after an ad hoc government panel ruled the Park government's case was based on confessions elicited through torture.

After her release, Han went to Ewha's Graduate School for Women's Studies earning her doctorate in 1985. She played a key role in forming several civic groups and later headed the Korea Women's Associations United in 1993.

A two-term legislator, Han began her political career in 2000 when she won a National Assembly seat under the parliamentary proportional representation system on the ticket of the then ruling Democratic Party.

She became the first minister of gender equality and family in 2001 and environment minister in 2003 during the incumbent administration.

Han was reelected to the Assembly in 2004 in the constituency of Ilsan in Kyonggi Province.

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