Grand National Party Chairwoman, Park Geun-hye (Lee Jin-man/AP pic)
The Washington Post has a piece on GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye in conjunction with her visit to Washington this week. POTP says that her star is on the rise:
From the beginning, Park Geun Hye's political path was paved by tragedy. She lost her mother, then South Korea's first lady, to a North Korean assassin in 1974. Five years later, Park bowed before the coffin of her father, Park Chung Hee, the nation's longtime military ruler, who had been gunned down by his intelligence chief.
But as her political star has begun to rise in South Korea, now a democracy, Park, 53, has transformed herself from a subject of national sympathy into a stateswoman. Over the past 12 months, she has taken the helm of the Grand National Party, shaking up the nation's largest opposition force, which had lost public support during corruption scandals and an unpopular attempt to impeach President Roh Moo Hyun.
Park is now considered an early contender for the 2007 presidential race and has hinted at a bid to become South Korea's first female leader. She travels to Washington on Tuesday on her first official visit to the United States as head of the GNP.
One thing to like about Park is her moderate realism regarding relations with North Korea, which lies somewhere between the all carrots approach of the Roh administration and the all sticks approach of... (OK, let's be honest here, I don't know of anyone who is 'all sticks.) Mostly sticks approach of some members of the Bush administration:
"If North Korea cooperates, we need to send the message that we are ready to help them economically," Park said. "But if they do not, then they need to realize that such a situation would make economic cooperation impossible."
That North Korean policy certainly puts Park ahead in my book of say, 'Vlad' Chong Dong-Young, the Uri party's likely candidate for the presidency in the next election. Chong wants to give Pyeongyang anything it wants while actively fighting against North Koreans who want to escape to freedom.
But I am not convinced that Park is the woman to lead the GNP to the Blue House and back to a majority in the Kuk Hoi. Her leadership during the recent capital semi-relocation fight left a lot to be desired. Also, the folks at the Uri party are sure to keep up a campaign of innuendo against her late father as Japanese collaborator during their selectively comprehensive investigation into Korea's colonial past, which may prove fatal. I certainly hope that the GNP has plan B ready.
UPDATE: Oranckay has another reason why Park might not be the woman to lead Korea.