Park Geun-hye has been considered front-runner in the women's group. The first daughter of former president Park Jung-hee began her political career in 1998 when she was elected as lawmaker in a by-election. She became leader of a major political party in 2004, marking the second of such a case in history. Before her, Park Sun-cheon headed a political party in Korea some 41 years ago.
Park GH has been particularly a strong leader of her party through elections. Under her leadership, the opposition party swept two general elections and four by local elections. She is widely recognized for her 'election leadership'.
Since announcing her bid for presidency, she also continued maintaining the two digit approval rating in a number of voter surveys. She has been by far the strongest of the bunch.
Park will no longer be seen in the presidential race this time, after her defeat in the party's nomination vote. Yet, she paved the way for other female political leaders who aim at becoming the top office.
Park contributed significantly to raising the standing of female politicians in Korea through the nomination process, and established her political ground by shaking off the image as dear daughter of late former president Park Jung-hee.
Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, known as 'Grandmother' of women movements, is running for her seat in presidential candidates of the New Democratic Party. Only six months after getting married, her husband was imprisoned for espionage charges for long thirteen years. Han also spent two years in prison for her involvement in democratic movements. Leading major women rights organizations such as the Korean Womenlink, she nurtured a number of female activists. She entered the political scene in 2000, winning a proportional representation seat in the National Assembly.
In 2004, she became the first female prime minister in Korea, and therefore, the first one to break the glass ceiling built against women. Han won 6.8 precent, or the fourth place, in an approval rating survey to candidate wanna-bes in the ruling party.
Choo Mi-ae has the longest career in politics. The judge-turned politician is another runner in the New Democratic Party. She was first elected as lawmaker in 1996, and maintained the seat in the following election in 2000.
When the Democratic Party faced a major crisis in 2004 after the scandalous impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun, she was appointed to lead the besieged political party during the election period. Then, she got the nickname called 'Choo D'arc' for making apologetic bows all along the roads across the country. She failed to preserve her seat in the general election, and left the country to study the field of the Korean Peninsula in the United States.
Choo is seen as lagging behind more high-profile Han, but she has a strong appeal to young voters. Her separation from the real-world politics in the past three years can also help her lure more votes.
Former president of the Democratic Party Chang Sang has won reputation as renowned scholar in Korea. She got aboard relatively late in August this year, but her profile also runs high. In 1996, she was named the first married president of Ewha Womans University, and successfully led the prestigious women's university with her managerial and international minds and skills. She served as advisor and vice chairman of several reunification organizations, and became the only woman who joined the delegation to North Korea during the first round of the inter-Korean summit held in June 2000. She was nominated for the office of prime minister in 2002, but failed to become the first female prime minister in the country's history. In 2006, she joined the Democratic Party, and has led the local election committee and served president of the party. In April this year, she resigned, and organized the 'Unity and Creation Forum'.
Sim Sang-jeong from the Democratic Labor Party is well known for her labor movements.
She worked for a number of union organizations including the Metal Federation under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Working as deputy director in the union organization predominated by men, she horned her strong leadership in the labor area, earning her nickname 'the Iron Woman'.
She entered the political scene in 2004, securing the propositional representation seat in the National Assembly. She has been considered expert in economic polices, winning praises for her professional knowledge in the Finance and Economic Committee of the National Assembly. She also plays a key role in laying the policy groundwork for her Democratic Labor Party. She was also ranked No. 1 in the list of competent women lawmakers last year.
by Kwon Ji-hee