Record number of women in new S. Korean Cabinet

(Clockwise from top left) Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, Patriots and Veteran Affairs Minister Pi Woo Jin, Land Minister Kim Hyun Mee, Environment Minister Kim Eun Kyung, Labour Minister Kim Young Joo and Gender Equality Minister Chung Hyun Back.
(Clockwise from top left) Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, Patriots and Veteran Affairs Minister Pi Woo Jin, Land Minister Kim Hyun Mee, Environment Minister Kim Eun Kyung, Labour Minister Kim Young Joo and Gender Equality Minister Chung Hyun Back.

From a former United Nations veteran to an ex-army helicopter pilot to a former basketball pro, the women in South Korean President Moon Jae In's new Cabinet are as diverse as can be.

With women appointed in six out of 19 positions, Mr Moon has made good his campaign promise to have at least 30 per cent women in his administration.

This is the highest figure in South Korea's democratic history. Even when the country had its first female president, Park Geun Hye, in 2012, she appointed only two female ministers.

The female powers in Mr Moon's Cabinet are Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, 62; Patriots and Veteran Affairs Minister Pi Woo Jin, 61; Land Minister Kim Hyun Mee, 55; Gender Equality Minister Chung Hyun Back, 64; Labour Minister Kim Young Joo, 62; and Environment Minister Kim Eun Kyung, 61.

Ms Kang was South Korea's first female UN diplomat, while Ms Pi was an army lieutenant who became the country's first female helicopter pilot.

Ms Kim Hyun Mee and Ms Kim Eun Kyung share a similar background - both were advisers to the late liberal president Roh Moo Hyun. Ms Kim Young Joo was a professional basketball player who became a three-term lawmaker, while Ms Chung, a history professor, is well known as a women's rights activist.

Their appointments, part of Mr Moon's efforts to break away from traditional ways, have been applauded by many.

 
  • Number of women in President Moon Jae In's new Cabinet, a record. 

    Number of female ministers appointed by former president Park Geun Hye.

Wilson Centre global fellow Jean Lee said it shows that Mr Moon recognises the value of placing qualified women in key leadership positions, and that it will inspire future generations. "South Korea is changing, and President Moon has been a strong champion of positive change for his country," she said.

Chang May Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline 'Record number of women in new S. Korean Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe