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Deja Vu

February 25, 2013

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2013: South Korean history was made this week, as Park Geun-hye became the country’s first female president. Strained relations with North Korea and a rapidly shifting global economy means Park, who ran as a fiscal conservative, has an arduous road ahead of her. CNN reports:

In a speech, Park said South Koreans stood at a new juncture, confronting the difficulties of the global financial crisis as well as the threat from the North. “I will usher in a new era of hope whereby the happiness of each citizen becomes the bedrock of our nation’s strength which in turn is shared by and benefits all Koreans,” she said.

When she was elected last December, Park broke barriers in the patriarchal East Asian nation, though she is deeply connected to its past. Her father, Park Chung-hee, was one of the founders of modern Korea who took power after a coup d’etat and ruled heavy-handedly for eighteen years before being shot dead by his intelligence chief in 1979.

I would like to re-create the miracle of ‘let’s live well’ so people can worry less about their livelihood and young people can happily go to work,” Park said.

1553: Upon the accession of Queen Mary I, English Protestants feared the Catholic queen would be a hostile ruler, and many were unsure of how to respond to a female head of state. Thomas Becon, a Protestant reformer from Norfolk, saw a woman upon the throne as punishment from God himself:

In the stead of a virtuous prince thou hast set to rule over us a woman, whom nature hath formed to be in subjugation unto man, and whom thou by thine holy apostle commandest to keep silence, and not to speak in the congregation. Ah, Lord! To take away the empire from a man, and to give it unto a woman, seemeth to be an evident token of thine anger toward us Englishmen. For by the prophet thou, being displeased with thy people, threatenest to set women to rule over them, as people unworthy to have lawful, natural, and meet governors to reign over them.

We do read that such as ruled and were queens were for the most part wicked, ungodly, superstitious, and given to idolatry and to all filthy abominations. Ah, Lord God! We dare not take upon us to judge any creature, for unto thee alone are the secrets of all hearts known; but of this we are sure, that since She ruled, thy vineyard is utterly rooted up and laid waste.
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The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced.
Victor Hugo, 1862
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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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