WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- With Koreans set to decide whether to embrace the first female president in their traditionally male-dominated nation, a leading candidate, Park Geun-hye, has drawn a mixed assessment of her role and stature in the women's rights field, a U.S. newspaper reported Tuesday.
Park, a member of the conservative ruling party, is in the home stretch of a tight race with Moon Jae-in of the liberal opposition bloc.
Koreans will begin cast their ballots on Tuesday afternoon (Washington time). The winner is expected to be announced as early as Wednesday morning.
If Park wins, it would "represent a major symbolic breakthrough in a region underpinned by Confucianism, a Chinese-born philosophy that says women should be obedient to their husbands," the Washington Post said.
Park could help normalize the idea of women holding positions of power, opening the door for others at universities, in the corporate world or in government, the paper added.
Citing some gender equality experts, however, The Post said the effect of Park's presidency on the women's rights movement may be limited.
"The greatest lesson might be a dispiriting one: If you want to become a female leader, it helps if you're the child of a president," it reported.
The newspaper was referring to her father, Park Chung-hee, who seized power in a 1961 military coup and ruled the nation for 18 years before being assassinated by a close aide.
Supporters of the late president claim Korea would not have achieved such rapid economic growth without his strong leadership. Critics argue that his dictatorship stalled the country's development of democracy.
Park Geun-hye is especially popular among elderly people who are nostalgic about his father.
"Most accomplished Korean women started from the ground level and have worked their way up while facing discrimination," Kim Hyun-young, a professor of gender studies at Kookmin University in Seoul, was quoted as saying.
While Park's party describes her as a "motherly leader" who can resolve tough issues in a relative smooth manner with few struggles, Moon's camp criticizes the use of gender as a campaign strategy.
Moon's party says it is questionable whether Park, a 60-year-old who has never married, fully understands women's worries and hardships, according to the Post.
Furthermore, it remains uncertain how much gender issues will affect the race because presidential polls show the race dominated by economic and security issues, the newspaper pointed out.