korea project

On the Appointment of Prime Minister Han

welcoming the first female Korean prime minister, with hopes for an administration and future of peace for the Korean peninsula.

19 April 2006


Myeong-sook Han was confirmed today as the first female prime minister in Korean history. The National Assembly's approval of her appointment was the result of her many achievements: as a democracy activist and feminist, and her terms as cabinet minister first as Minister of Gender Equality & Family, then as head of the Environment Ministry. She is a role model, having become prime minister not through her family’s background, but by her own merit.

We have been waiting for a prime minister who unifies rather than disrupts, reflecting hope and peace rather than antagonism and conflict. We expect Prime Minister Han to fulfill our wishes by seeing her job through the eyes of the weak, a skill she developed during her years of struggle for democracy and gender equality.

We believe that Minister Han should work first on resolving such urgent issues as easing socioeconomic polarization and improving people's quality of life to give them hope. The introduction of ‘flexibility’ into the labor market has meant that over fifty percent of all workers and seventy percent of female workers have been reduced to temporary employees. Many of them have become more impoverished because of the inadequate safety net.

This situation is especially hard for women, as they are discriminated against in the labor market and have the additional burden of bearing and rearing children. This situation has led to an extremely low birth rate that threatens the very future of our society. In the near future we expect to see measures to increase the quality of life for the weak and the poor generally, such as stabilization of the labor market and improvement of labor conditions for temporary workers, job creation through socializing part of care-giving labor, such as for children and the aged, and strengthening of the social security system.

Secondly, we expect the new prime minister to make more government offices available to women so that women are well represented in all administrative branches. The presence of a female prime minister has the symbolic power to encourage women's advancements in society, recognizing their competence. To make the symbolic effect a reality, however, we need a system to guarantee that women can find work appropriate to their abilities, and that they are not hindered from entering the field of their choice.

The government should set an example by introducing a quota for women in high-ranking positions. In order to change the social atmosphere that excludes women, the private sector should also adopt measures such as a female quota for promotions. Such actions will not only improve the representation of women, but will also bring about a new wave of change in every corner of our society, powering the country’s further development.

Thirdly, Prime Minister Han should work out a diplomatic strategy to establish peace on this peninsula and in the Far East. The North Korean nuclear issue needs particular attention and effort. She must reopen the six-party talks and find a way to achieve real and just peace in Korea. We also expect her to deal wisely with current territorial disputes in northeast Asia and resolve tensions there.

As the third consecutive prime minister of the Roh government, responsible for wrapping up this administration, Han Myeong-sook has more tasks than ever. We hope that she will usher in policies of equality, unity and hope, which can take the burden off the weak above all else. We look forward to a new vision for Korea.

April 19, 2006
Korean Women's Associations United

Translation from the original: Jahng Hyun-joo, Anna Gyorgy, for Women and Life on Earth e.V., Seoul, ROK and Berlin, Germany.
Contact: Korea project at info@wloe.org

For more information (in English):
From 1993-1996 Ms Han was Standing Representative, Korea Women's Association United (KWAU);