A fun but effective rebellion has been launched to safeguard women's political participation. The rebels' goal is to 'get Go Eun Gwang-soon elected and protect Minister Kang Kum-sil.' Women groups met on March 5 to kick off the 'Bodyguards HQ for Women Politicians,' tasked with guarding women politicians from patriarchal authoritarianism and its challenges.
The Bodyguards HQ's first meeting also served as a second meeting for 'Go Eun People,' a group of Go Eun Gwang-soon supporters. The history of Go Eun People dates back to October last year, during the 'Jeju Island goddess field trip' organized by the Women's Art and Culture Production (WAC Pro).
WAC Pro had planned a series of 'goddess field trips' under the theme 'Discovering the Goddess in Me,' and had organized the first trip to Mt. Jiri in May and the second to Jeju Island in October. The latter trip in particular drew much interest thanks to the fact that Gloria Steinum, world-renowned feminist activist and editor of Miz, had been invited. Also on the trip were well-recognized figures in the Korean women's movement including photographer Park Young-sook, activist Oh Soon-ae, advocate of hoju system abolishment Go Eun Gwang-soon, feminist scholar Oh Han Sook-Hee and oriental physician Lee Yoo Myung-ho.
Recalls Oh Soon Ae, director of Women's Hotline, "We were up till one in the morning talking with Gloria about the women's movement in Korean society. We shared our thoughts on the methodologies and practical measures available to the women's movement." Gloria Steinum had once campaigned in the US for the election of feminism-friendly male politicians. She pointed out that having women politicians affects not just each individual woman politician but all women, and thus women politicians should be targets of political monitoring as well as support and encouragement. She also emphasized the importance of forces working to protect each woman politician struggling within the male-dominated power circle. In Korea, the women's movement warmed up to the debate on women's political empowerment when Choi Bo-eun's suggestion that women should rally behind Park Geun-hye's ambitions for first woman president created quite a stir last year. That is why Steinum's experience left a lasting impression on her Korean counterparts.
Then on New Year's Eve last year, women activists still cherishing the dream of political empowerment gathered once more at the home of feminist scholar Oh Han Sook-hee. They all agreed that male politicians with a feminist mindset would be a rarity indeed in Korean society. Their discussion naturally turned to suitable female candidates, which in turn led to the birth of Go Eun People, aimed at making a real politician out of Go Eun Gwang-soon, who was then heading a regional branch of the Reform People's Party.
"Oh Han sent me an email to say that I, Go Eun Gwang-soon, was just a tool. Meaning I didn't have a choice in leading or giving up this struggle. I didn't take offense at all. Women should be tools and sources of energy to one another."
At the second meeting of Go Eun People, members agreed that the Go Eun project must be followed by many more similar projects. This resolve became the background to the launching of Bodyguards HQ. Women activists in the HQ call themselves action corps captains. In line with the HQ's goal of making politics enjoyable, all the members were light-heartedly christened captain something or other according to their roles - Captain Charge, Captain Exorcism, Captain Spider Network, Captain Glib Tongue, Captain Trumpet and so on.
The project to turn Go Eun into a politician is off to a good start. The first line of action is collecting signatures of women activists and distinguished figures in support of Go Eun. There were numerous suggestions on how to bring Go Eun closer to the residents of Seocho, her constituency. Action corps captains in charge of broadcast media, press, culture, telecommunications and so on are in themselves a mobile election campaign HQ.
The round-the-year project of guarding Minister of Justice Kang Kum-sil also began on the very day of the launching of the Bodyguards HQ. Ideas poured out included sending a flower a day to the Minister and spreading favorable messages on the Internet. The "bodyguards" even planned how they would eliminate stumbling blocks in the Ministry that are resisting Kang's reform drive. The gathering that had met at 2 in the afternoon continued their discussions well into the night.
Then on March 8, familiar faces joined the Women's Day march sporting black sunglasses and black clothes accentuated with bright pink cloaks. They were the action corps captains of the Bodyguards HQ, out to grab the attention of other women groups and the media and to encourage participation in their project. The 'Bodyguards HQ for Women Politicians' has truly set sail towards the horizon of women's political empowerment.