'The birth of four woman Ministers.' Women have made it big in the first Cabinet of the new administration.
President Roh Mu Hyun concluded his deliberations on the line-up for his new Cabinet, appointing Lawyers for a Democratic Society vice-president Kang Kum-sil (aged 47) as Minister of Justice. Other women in the Cabinet include Kim Hwa-joong (aged 58) as Minister of Health and Welfare, Ji Eun-hee (aged 57) as Minister of Gender Equality, and Han Myung-sook (59), former Minister of Gender Equality, as Minister of Environment.
President Roh announced his Cabinet organization the day after the National Assembly passed the much-debated bill to appoint Goh Kun as Prime Minister on February 26. It is told that Roh's criteria for appointing Cabinet members are ▲ Stability for external affairs, reform for domestic affairs ▲ New faces ▲Special consideration for women.
Minister Kang Kum-sil's appointment was by far the most phenomenal, as it was made against vehement protest from the Ministry of Justice and prosecutors. It was unclear to the last minute whether Kang would make it or not, considering that the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecution Office are organizations that characteristically conform to a rigid hierarchy. Kang did win the appointment, however, thanks to strong support from the non-government legal circle and women groups.
Minister Kim Hwa-joong, former president of the Korean Nurses Association, was in charge of developing the framework for the health and welfare policies of the new government. Such records and her past efforts to improve health and medical conditions in the rural areas helped her get appointed as the Minister of Health and Welfare. On retrospect, prospects for her appointment were shaky to the last minute due to opposition from labor and civic groups skeptical about her "reform-mindedness."
As for Minister Ji Eun-hee, there was a time when it seemed that she would be passed over, due to rumors that Minister Han would stay on as Minister of Gender Equality for another term. But her appointment was confirmed when it was decided that Han would move to head the Ministry of Environment. Conditions that worked in her favor were expectations that her intimate relationship with Minister Han would make for smooth continuity in Ministry affairs, and the advice to Roh's team that the new government should not put new wine in old bottles.
Former Minister of Environment Kim Myung-ja, who was being considered as Minister of Construction and Transportation, a typically male-dominated position, lost her chance at the last minute to former Blue House Policy Planning Chief Choi Jong-chan. Congresswoman Lee Mi-kyung of the New Millennium Democratic Party was a strong candidate for Minister of Environment from early on, but was left out in consideration of her plans for the General Elections next year.
Women groups unanimously issued statements welcoming the new government's appointment of women to the Cabinet. The Korea Women's Association United (KWAU, representative Jeong Hyun-baek) issued a statement on February 27 saying, "We welcome President Roh's appointment of numerous woman Ministers despite strong opposition from conservative media and men. We promise to create and support an environment conducive to the woman Ministers' good performance."
▲Minister of Justice Kang Kum-sil = Famous in the non-government legal circle for having the trust and respect of her younger female colleagues. Far removed from the prejudice that most people have against legal experts, she is unpretentious when meeting people, and known to be particularly kind to the low-income clients who seek her counsel. She shows excellent judgment regarding current issues as well as drive and initiative, and is thus expected to produce results in reforming the Ministry of Justice and Prosecution Office.
After passing the bar examination in 1982, she worked for 11 years as a judge in the Seoul and Busan District Courts and the Seoul High Court. She started her practice as a lawyer in 1996, and was vice-president of the Lawyers for a Democratic Society since 2000. Born in Jeju-do in 1957, majored in Law at Seoul National University.
▲ Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Hwa-joong = She is a mother-figure for nurses who started her career as a nurse in the University Hospital in the early 1960s, moved on to teach nursing in universities, and served as president of the Korea Nurses Association. She has been an active member of numerous nursing-related organizations. She has shown particular interest in the welfare of the under-privileged, founding the National Association for the Advancement of Health and Medical Care in Rural Communities in 1999. During the presidential election last year, she was in charge of the basic layout of Roh's campaign pledges regarding health and welfare, but it has been pointed out that her "reform-mindedness" has yet to be proven. Born in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do in 1945, majored in Nursing at Seoul National University.
▲Minister of Environment Han Myung-sook = The first Minister of Gender Equality in 2001, her appointment as Minister of Environment was thanks in no small part to the fact that she led the Minister of Gender Equality for two years without any serious hitches. During the years of military dictatorship, she started her career as a social activist in the Korea Christian Academy, only to be imprisoned for two years soon after. She has also been a leader of the women's movement, serving as the president of Womenlink Korea, co-representative of the KWAU and the Citizen's Council for Broadcast Media Reform. Born in Pyongyang, Pyongannam-do, majored in French Language and Literature at Ehwa Women's University.
▲Minister of Gender Equality Ji Eun-hee = Together with Minister Han Myung-sook, she has been a major figure in Korea's feminist movement for more than 20 years. She also became a familiar face to the general public after successfully leading the controversial rejection campaign against unfit candidates as a co-representative of the Citizens' Alliance for General Elections 2000. After serving for five years as senior representative of KWAU, she went on to become senior representative of Civilnet (alliance of civic and social groups in Korea) to command the civil movement. Born in Seoul in 1947, majored in Sociology at Ehwa Women's University.