Lee Sunhwa makes Jeju election history

기사승인 2014.06.05  16:05:46


- Breakthrough as senator is one of two women elected to local council for first time

▲ Senator Lee Sunhwa (center in red jacket) has just been elected to council after her previous term was by appointment. The author, Anne Hilty, is at far left. Photo courtesy Anne Hilty

Senator Lee Sunhwa has just made history -- for the third time in her life, thus far.

Senator Lee [New Frontier Party] is one of two women [the other being Hyun Junghwa, also New Frontier Party - Ed.] who have just won a seat on the Jeju Provincial Council by election. Senator Lee served her first term by appointment of the governor under a scheme to increase female participation in high-ranking government positions; Hyun is a first-term senator. Until now, no female has been successfully elected to Council, and only a handful has attempted to do so.

Senator Lee was also the first female in all of Korea to become the floor leader of a political party; and, in her original career, was the first female production director on Jeju Island. Without any doubt, she is a trailblazer.

Below is the transcript of an interview with Senator Lee in her campaign office this morning. [Full disclosure: this reporter and the senator are joint members of BPW International, and maintain a personal friendship.]

Q) Senator Lee, how are you feeling right now, just hours after the election results?

A) I am very excited about writing a new history for Jeju women. I am the daughter of a haenyeo - and I am excited that I was the first elected councilwoman. As a result of this election, I would like to work with Samdo-dong and Ora-dong people [the district in which she was elected and will represent], not only the Jeju Government -- I want to acknowledge the people's choice. This district has a lot of cultural resources - Gwandeokjeong, Bangseonmun, Mokgwana, and others - humanities resources. I have humanities resources too -- my major was humanities and I think that my major will fit well with this district because this district has so many cultural resources. I think my political activity through this district will be a 'political experimental field' for the next term.

Q) What are your strengths, now as a senior, elected senator?

A) Actually, I have 25 years' experience in media as a production director [PD], which provided me with a great deal of competence and ability -- in fact, I was in charge of the production control room as a producer and had a lot of responsibility as a driving force. I'm good at competing and fighting with men through this work experience; I held a job during the era of sexual discrimination and so I was well trained in and don't have any hesitation about fighting with any man if necessary -- I'm good at fighting.

I have also thought a lot about the dream for this district, and about how I can be the medium to make their dream come true.

Q) What will you focus on in this term?

A) I would like to emphasize the use of culture for economic benefit, through this next term, for my electorate. President Park Geun-hye [New Frontier Party] and the central government's political platform 3 is creative economy, cultural prosperity, and national happiness. I would like to apply the platform to this district -- we have Gwandeokjeong and Mokgwana, but we have hardly any cultural atmosphere. I would like to develop this area. We have the 'hardware' [cultural artifacts]; I would like to develop the 'software' [accompanying atmosphere of culture] for them. Bangseonmun was already designated a national cultural heritage, and even though it is located in Jeju, I would like to attract the central government budget to make it nationally and internationally famous.

Also, I would like to develop a large network to attract the central government budget. I already have experience in creating such a network of 23 parliamentary members, for the purpose of UNESCO designation for haenyeo culture -- and I can make this again for Bangseonmun. And, I would like to gain recognition for Jeju cultural resources as both national and international heritage. I would also like to develop additional value for this district, to enable the people in this region to take pride in their cultural resources by connecting local cultural resources to central government resources [budget].

Q) Do you think your election represents a beginning of the paradigm shift that you seek?

A) In fact, on Jeju Island the historically important paradigm shift has already begun. First, there is the example of Won Hee-ryong, the new, young governor who has achieved a very large shift. And now, the gender issue has begun. Actually, Jeju is very late in this; although we are in the 21st century, the Era of Women, Jeju has only now begun to enter this era, and we've achieved a paradigm shift for women's history. In this election, men and women alike supported me, though it was a very long and difficult battle. I hope that for the next election, the second election of female candidates, that all citizens achieve gender integration -- that we realize gender integration by the next election.

Q) What do you want to say to Jeju Weekly readers?

A) I would like to express my gratitude to The Jeju Weekly, because [the paper] has paid a lot of attention to the efforts for UNESCO recognition of haenyeo culture, and to the Casa del Agua preservation concern -- and has done a great job generally of promoting Jeju worldwide. I hope that The Jeju Weekly can continue to make Jeju increasingly well known for its cultural value and also cultural vision.

And, as I previously developed a Foreign Advisory Committee [to the government] that has been functioning well, now as an elected councilwoman, I would like to encourage The Jeju Weekly to work together with me in support of this committee. Thank you.

Interpretation: Im, Aeduk

Dr. Hilty is a New York psychologist who made Jeju her home for 4 years (in Korea for 9 years in total); she is an Honorary Ambassador for Jeju Island appointed by the governor, now based in UK.

Anne Hilty

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