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Matriarchal Politics in Experiment
An unprecedented phenomenon is now occurring in the 64-year political history of the Republic of Korea: both the ruling and main opposition parties are led by women. Outstanding women leaders, such as Park Sun-cheon and Kim Ok-seon, once played important roles as senior members of opposition parties in the 1960s and the 70s, respectively. But they never dreamed of taking the top leadership role themselves, as they were overshadowed by three influential patriarchal leaders, namely, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil. The past six decades in Korea's political history have been engraved with "macho" leadership. Now, suddenly we are witnessing the advent of matriarchal politics.
In fact, we must admit that in evolutionary terms, men are inferior to women. The older we grow, the more we realize that men are prone to struggle and they even have affection deficiency. Most septuagenarian or older men shedding tears over their mother's tomb obviously miss the loving care of their mother who used to embrace them unconditionally when they were exhausted from "hunting expeditions." Men's tears are biological signals, while women's are anthropological. Men identify themselves with their mother's hard life and sympathize with their father's unfounded pride. Men shed tears because they now understand the evolutionary fate of their father who was hard-charging in everything and worked diligently for his family while his inner self wandered aimlessly.
Korean political circles needed leaders who would hold the exhausted people in their arms. Suddenly, two women took over their party`s helm. Han Myeong-sook became chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic United Party, taking charge of the "taming of wild dogs." She herself unwittingly displays aggression to rein in the rough and rowdy party members. Given the circumstances, nobody would match her and win the hearts of the DUP members who are "grinding out an oath" to regain power in the upcoming elections.
Meanwhile, Park Geun-hye, chairwoman of the interim leadership committee of the ruling Saenuri Party (formerly called Grand National Party), always looks upright and prudent about everything, presumably because she lost both her parents when she was not old enough to run a household and take care of her younger siblings on her own. She is now demonstrating "matriarchal love" to her party members who have been "shellacked" by their opposition rivals. People hope that regardless of their experience in politics, matriarchal leaders will raise awareness and filter men's "inferior genes" that tend to transform power into a devilish tool.
Female political leadership already has arrived in some advanced countries. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher, the stern and resolute British prime minister, brought stability to the United Kingdom which had been a chaotic battleground of male politicians. Her successors at 10 Downing Street, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of the Labour Party and David Cameron of the Conservative Party, inherited her matriarchal legacy, regardless of their party affiliation. After succeeding Gerhard Schroeder as the German chancellor, Angela Merkel with a "wise mother" image has helped Germany regain its former status as a country of large-minded people. Had it not been for her motherly consideration, Greece would have already gone bankrupt and Europe would have been divided into north and south.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the gracious-looking prime minister of Denmark, launched a coalition of centrist and left-wing parties. Finland has both a female president and a female prime minister. Women also stand out as political leaders in Ireland and Iceland. Women leaders in rich countries behave without reserve to the extent that they take taxis and go shopping. In those countries, men exercise power and women manage it.
If mothers of the world are likened to land, Park Kyung-ni, the author of "Toji" (The Land), once ached for her own mother. Park wrote several poems about her mother when she felt she would soon join her in heaven. After she emptied her mind of all thoughts before she died, only her mother remained. "The Way Mother Lived," one of her last poems, reads in part, "Never did I see Mother raise her voice / to quarrel with others. / Even with Gi-bong's quarrelsome family / she never argued. / When people spoke ill of others / she said nobody is faultless. / Never did she say she wouldn't keep company with / even those who liked to make trouble."
In Korea`s male-dominated, ugly political environment, verbal arguments lead to fistfights. The task ahead for the women political leaders is evident as they prepare their parties for the general and presidential elections this year. They have to remove the sting of barbarity from the male-dominated politics in which everybody is engaged in bloody battles, covets wealth when they have power, and makes no bones about using violence against anybody who is ideologically different from them.
School violence, about which everybody is worried, is not the only problem in our society. People are already frightened by the possibility of ideological showdowns and physical clashes that will grow wild this year. Naturally, they can neither extend a hand to the unpopular conservative government nor express confidence in the zealous progressive forces.
It is fortunate that, in this season of uncertainly, we can see a ray of hope in matriarchal politics. What did the macho politics bring us after bloody fistfights? Prosperity and welfare? Reconciliation and compromise? Morality and common good? I doubt it. Under the banners of working class politics hoisted for decades, working-class people still feel abandoned and helpless. Reiterating reconciliation and unity for decades, politicians have behaved like perpetrators of domestic violence.
Maybe, the people are already split up into two races: conservatives versus progressives, or the haves versus the have-nots. Are the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections going to be fisticuffs between these two races? Election victories should not be the only imminent concern. Macho politics should be driven out for good. Will the hard-won matriarchal politics offer clues as to how?