By Lee Kyung-hwa
In December, I will be able to exercise my voting right for the first time in my life. As a voter, I am trying to picture a prospective leader who could ultimately bring real change to our society. While I was thinking about it, I happened to realize that for the first time in our history, a female president could be elected.
Are we ready for a female president? If so, what qualities do we expect to see from her? This question has drawn considerable attention from people around the globe but it appears that most citizens, especially those my age, are not bothering to think about it as they end up saying “our society is not yet open to women.”
It is high time that we redefine the qualities of a leader so that people of all types, regardless of gender, age and status can contribute to bringing about national and global prosperity. To do so, we need to first eradicate the prejudice which is rooted deep inside our souls. Ruminating upon the qualities of leadership that Queen Seondeok, the first queen of the ancient Silla Kingdom, exhibited in the past will assure citizens that women do possess the natural virtues of leading a nation.
Queen Seondeok laid the foundation for the unification of the three ancient kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla. She was a prominent female leader who led Korea in times of turbulence. Renaming her era a time of “even benevolence,” she worked to gain independence from the Tang Dynasty.
As a “mother of a nation,” she addressed the worries and concerns of the ordinary people by installing observatories to help peasants predict the weather. This quality of motherly leadership is what we hope to see in the 21st century of Korean society. Listening to others’ concerns and redressing them through concrete polices are what we expect to see in the days to come.
To be specific, communication in place of aggression should be brought in so that people of all ranges including those at the bottom of the ladder in society can approach the leader to speak of their desperate needs in times of difficulty. Through their intrinsic nature of tenderness, women could enable, foster and create understanding and trust essential to motivate others to follow a leader.
Those qualities that Queen Seondeok demonstrated to us are what we expect to see from our prospective female leader during the next presidential term. Korea needs independence as it must grow by standing on its own feet in the globalized world where countries trample on each other for their own success.
More important than ever, the nation wants its leaders to pay attention to the needs of the poor. It urgently needs a “motherly leader” who can reflect the minority’s stance when redressing the paradoxical structures of society which marginalize the poor.
Nevertheless, a tender leader cannot be equated with a soft leader. A good female head of state should be firm as to push her direction forward even in danger. With an awareness that the Korean Peninsula is technically at war, the president should be on guard at all times and move forward with concrete steps through military action when necessary.
A good leader should always actively look forward to negotiating with various forces that could provide the nation with help. In short, an “I will show you” attitude through direct action is needed.
It remains to be seen whether Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party would be a wise “motherly” president if elected.
However, in my opinion, she has certain qualities that emulate those of Queen Seondeok. Were it not for her will to contribute to the rise of the Saenuri Party, it would have disintegrated. We must wait to see if the queen of the party turns out to be the queen of the nation.
It is true that everyone has prejudice. A slight prejudice toward an individual may not be that devastating but if it is too much, it could hinder one from seeing reality. This is what most of the citizens in Korea are experiencing.
A prejudice that “women, the minority cannot lead the world” has been the dogma dictating the political arena for centuries.
However, it is possible for women to lead the minority because they are the minority. With their willingness to listen to others and solve issues through communication, women can certainly be leaders.
Thanks to the historical role model Queen Seondeok, women can be inspired to step up and rise to the top of society. This not only concerns a selected few but even young adults like me. We are not merely voters. We are leaders. We have the right to vote and make a change.
The writer is a third-year student at Eunkwang Girls High School in Seoul. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.