Steely Leader of South Korea Is Battle-Ready

Park Geun-hyeHer mother was shot by an assassin. And her father, a staunchly anti-Communist dictator, was similarly killed. And she survived a vicious razor attack to the face. Nobody doubts the toughness of South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, whose upbringing has made her as steely a leader as they come. Now at the center of an escalating crisis with North Korea, Ms. Park, 61, is her country’s first-ever female leader, a fact that her rivals in the North have raised to taunt her. The stories of her mental toughness are legend, on learning her father had died, her first concern was whether North Korea was preparing to invade. Her first question after awakening from an operation after the razor attack in 2006, which left a scar across her jaw, was how her party’s campaign was going. Ms. Park is so tough-minded that even in South Korea, still one of Asia’s most patriarchal societies, her gender has mainly been a nonissue after some initial jitters. “In the past, during election campaigning, there was some doubt on whether a female president would do well at a time of crisis,” said Choi Jin, head of the Institute for Presidential Leadership in Seoul. “But through this current standoff with North Korea, she dispelled whatever doubt there had been about a female president by showing she was a strong-minded leader.” However, now that South Korea’s prized economy appears to be rattled by months of crisis, critics and supporters alike wonder if Ms. Park may have gone too far in presenting herself as an ultratough leader, and what some now call the “neuter president.” Just as some critics accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of becoming more hawkish to win over skeptics, Ms. Park took office seemingly ready to do battle. She filled the top security posts in her cabinet and presidential staff with former generals, decided to offer no real concessions until the North backs down, a change from some of the past administrations. Even officials in Obama administration, which has also taken a hard line against the North, have privately expressed fears that she might go too far if North Korea made a limited but deadly assault. To try to prevent an overreaction, the administration recently sent two stealth bombers to fly a practice run over South Korea to prove to the country’s leaders that they would not be left to face the North alone. Although Ms. Park does not highlight her history-making role as South’s first female president, her gender has been raised by leaders in Pyongyang, North’s capital, where society clings to traditional Confucian notions of women’s roles even as South Korea has begun to shed them. Last month, the North said her “venomous swish of skirt” was to blame for tensions besetting the peninsula, a reference to an old Korean expression for women who forget their place. The verbal tongue-lashing, which Ms. Park did not respond to directly, led some analysts to speculate that the North may have been underestimating her resolve, or at least testing her. If that was the point, it did not work (…..)



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12 Responses to Steely Leader of South Korea Is Battle-Ready

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Pres Park Geun-hye has the perfect profile to initiate another war in the Korea Peninsula. Staunchly anti-communist and ready to use military force to settle personal grievances against North Korea’s leadership. Pres Park Geun-hye is sort of a female Korean W. ready to go after evildoers that killed her daddy. The Obama administration has four big challenges to handle. First, young Kim Jong-un is being tested by an aggressive US-SK military maneuvers. For the first time, flights by long range bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers are being deployed. Second, an aggressive SK female president with a grudge against NK leadership and eager to use military force. A North Korean missile test can be considered a provocation and reason for retaliation by the South. Third, any conflict between the two Koreas will trigger a US response. A dangerous situation resembling 1950 when US troops fought Chinese soldiers. Forth, a military conflict is the WORST possible scenario for US-SK. After destruction of the South economic infrastructure and death of hundreds of thousands, what happens next? will US-SK troops occupy the North and promote regime change in Pyongyang? will China accept passively this outcome? In conclusion, unless the US engages in serious diplomatic negotiations with NK, Pyongyang will continue with its nuclear and missile programs unabated. Diplomacy is the only way out of this mess for Washington.

  2. paul m: the bombers were sent only after incendiary rhetoric about the pre-emptive use of nuclear force against SK by NK – sure diplomacy would “work” but not if NK refuses to even consider ending its nuclear pretensions – NK has never shown any reliability in maintaining long term treaty commitments (as Iran) – Vietnam provides an example of a country united after a devastating war which eventually developed economic progress and stability and South Korea has a far greater economic capacity than all of Vietnam – yes it would take maybe a few years but once the South occupies the North it would regenerate the country faster than anyone can imagine particularly with the flood of Chinese/Asian, and American/European investments in an united , peaceful Korea.

  3. Dave: Claiming that the US and South Korea are the aggressors in this case is absolutely ridiculous. Diplomacy as a solution? Insanity is doing the same thing twice (or in this case many time over) and expecting a different result.

  4. Linda W: Diplomacy would definitely be the answer if not for the fact that the major player here is a complete and utter lunatic. Worse than the nonsense shoved down the throats of the North’s populace is the possibility Kim actually believes himself to be their “Great Father” and consequently, will lead them to doomsday.

  5. John: She is NOT out to settle personal grievances–she has already met the son of the man who tried to kill her father (he vaguely apologized to her). She said, “It is better to look forward with hope than backward with bitterness.” I have met her twice; she is a class act.

  6. ADRIAN: More diplomacy, after 20 years of going nowhere and giving time for North Korea to refine its nuclear weapons technology? And who is testing whom? I should have thought that it was North Korea testing South Korea, Japan, the US and now, the UN as well.

  7. Paul CometX NYC: Diplomacy is not a substitute for resolve. The north is a cult, and like all cults it presses forward until the cult’s leaders percieve a threat to their own privileged existence, then miraculously they begin to act rationally.

  8. Moondance: Nope, she is not a Korean W, hunting for evildoers. W felt he had to investigate, did so badly, and invaded Iraq in a case of mistaken identity (at best). Park, on the other hand, doesn’t have to investigate anything if she needs to know who wants to attack her country. She and the whole rest of the world knows for sure.

  9. Rohit: Paul says, “Diplomacy is not a substitute for resolve.” But it makes a wonderful ornament for a lack of resolve.

  10. Secretary of State John Kerry sent several important messages to North Korea after talks on Friday in Seoul with South Korean leaders. Speaking at a news conference, he said that the United States would defend its South Korean and Japanese allies if there was conflict, that the international community would never accept the North as a nuclear weapons state, and that Washington was willing to resume long-stalled negotiations but only if the North Koreans agreed to move seriously on denuclearization. But the window into North Korea’s nuclear intentions and American policy in response was as blurry as ever. The Defense Intelligence Agency rang alarms bells on Thursday with a report that it had concluded with “moderate confidence” that the North was capable of launching a missile with a nuclear warhead. Mr. Kerry and other officials later dismissed the report as premature. On Friday, in a background briefing for journalists, a senior American official played down an expected North Korean missile test, saying it might provide the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, with an “off ramp” to save face and de-escalate tensions. Hours later, Mr. Kerry used a news conference to warn Mr. Kim not to proceed with the test in an “already volatile, potentially dangerous situation,” saying Mr. Kim “needs to understand, as I think he probably does, what the outcome of the conflict would be.” In that climate, Mr. Kerry’s reaffirmation of American interest in negotiations could get lost, especially since he put the responsibility on the North to act first, by seriously committing to denuclearize, and seemed inclined to let South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, move ahead first on her call for dialogue with North Korea. That’s worth trying, but China, the North’s only ally and chief benefactor, remains crucial to any progress and is going to have to apply more pressure on Pyongyang than it has so far. There are signs that some Chinese officials are becoming fed up with Mr. Kim’s threatening ways, and that should give Mr. Kerry a new opening when he visits Beijing on Saturday to make the argument that China’s support has allowed Mr. Kim to operate with impunity. For a country like China that values stability above all, that should be an untenable situation. North Korea poses a more imminent nuclear threat than Iran. But so far, Mr. Kerry’s continuing trip does not make us confident that the administration has a fully thought out strategy that will be any more successful than the current one, which has failed to curb either the North’s nuclear weapons program or its bellicosity (source: by THE EDITORIAL BOARD – NYTimes – 12/04/2013)

  11. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: North Korea many weaknesses — poverty stricken, lack of modern economic infrastructure — are, paradoxically, its main strength. The weaknesses are off set by unwavering popular support for the political leadership plus a credible military going nuclear. Ideology and patriotism were the main factors of Ho Chi Min victory in Vietnam. The use of military force against North Korea is the worst possible scenario for the US, SK and Japan for two reasons. First, any strike will be followed by devastating counter attacks that will destroy Seoul and its modern economic infrastructure. Second, IF the US wins the war, what to do next? occupy the North and reunify the country under the leadership of Seoul while Beijing watches passively? Any outcome of the current crisis –except total war — will not change the status quo in the Korea Peninsula. Pyongyang will continue its missile and nuclear weapons program. Diplomatic negotiations under the principle of mutual respect is a good beginning.

  12. SM: The unwavering popular support is because it’s one of the most brutal dictatorships in history and if you don’t support it, you’ll end up either in a prison camp or dead. Diplomatic negotiations, not that the US has diplomatic relations with NK, might be a good start but we’ve seen this movie before. In fact, we see it every few years. They threaten, we appease. And mutual respect is very unlikely – the day NK and the US or SK trade high-fives is not nigh.


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