The assumption of an office by former First Lady LEE Hee-Ho, wife of expresident KIM Dae-Jung, as an honorary chair at the 2007 World Women's Peace Forum Gwangju (WWPFG) makes the opening of the Forum ever more significant. She be-came the nation's first ‘First Lady’ who had been involved in women's movements including the YWCA. During her days at Cheong Wa Dae(the Presidential Mansion), she remained enthusiastic about promoting women's rights and policies for women. In her capacity as an honorary chair, she has been meticulous about selecting foreign panelists, while offering advice in preparing for the Forum.
Q : What do you expect from this Forum?
LEE : The Forum will be a place for cultural exchanges among nations, and for discussions on the leading roles of women to bring about world peace. Their ideas, I expect, will be fully reflected in concrete plans before they are translated into reality in the future.
Q : 'Multiculturalism' is one of the key topics on the agenda. What do you think is a right way for our society to accommodate it?
LEE : With the progress of globalization in this century, we need to outgrow traditionally exclusive ideas, and respect the excellence of both foreign and our own cultures. We should work together to create a new culture, while maintaining our own cultural identity in a spirit of mutual respect.
Q : For Korean women to be more empowered, what do they need to do?
LEE : As of January 1 next year, the Hoju System, or the traditional family registry system, will be completely abolished. This unique legal barrier to gender equality in our society will become history. It is regrettable to see, however, that our consciousness and customs are still incompatible with such complete legal equality in many ways. It is now imperative for women to work on realizing de facto gender equality in every sector of society.
Q : What do you usually expect your daughters-in-law to do?
LEE : I always stress that democracy begins at home. I ask them to respect individual opinions and personalities among family members on the one hand, and keep a free atmosphere and as well as order on the other.
Q : What are the things that you should have done while your husband was in office?
LEE : I think I should have met more women from all strata of society to share views. I should have learned about the life of more women in farming and fishing villages in particular so that I could have lent a more of a helping hand to them.
Asked about the books she recently read, she said she had been touched by 'Revolutionary Wealth' co-authored by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, and 'Oh, My God" by CHO Jeong-Rye. She is engaged in public services at 'Friends in Love', a charity for underprivileged citizens, and at 'The KEB Foundation'. As for the health of the couple, she said her husband has been on kidney dialysis. Other than that, she added right before winding up the interview, that they stayed remain healthy.