It's just a coincidence, but the symbolism is too hard to ignore. Two days ago, as every year on March 8, the world was celebrating women for, among other things, their "economic" and "political achievements." Earlier today, South Korea's Constitutional Court ruled that President Park Geun-hye must be removed from office over a corruption scandal that involves some of the country's top conglomerates, including national flagship corporation Samsung.
The case is reminiscent of that of another woman who, like Park, had been the first woman elected to lead her country, but who also was deposed amid accusations of cronyism: Brazil's Dilma Rousseff. Even if Dilma was impeached for having manipulated the budget to boost her chances of reelection, she too was suspected of corruption in the still ongoing operation Lava Jato (“Car Wash”).
Meanwhile, in neighboring Argentina, it is a former president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was recently indicted for allegedly taking bribes to award public works to companies owned by people close to her.
Women who seek public office should expect that their integrity will be examined with an unforgiving eye.
Rewind to late 2013 Germany and you'll find that even Angela Merkel, the oft-dubbed "most powerful woman in the world" and "new leader of the free world," isn't beyond reproach. Back then, she and her party were accused of having taken a generous donation from car manufacturer BMW, days before intervening to scrap an EU deal to cap carbon emissions. And of course, in last year’s campaign for the White House, Hillary Clinton’s defeat may ultimately be blamed on doubts about her honesty and probity.
It is first worth noting that in virtually all of these cases, the male rivals of the women in question have some serious ethical challenges of their own, which may even be viewed differently by a public more willing to forgive “boys being boys.”
But the upheaval in Seoul is still a worthwhile reminder, two days after some justified calls for more female power, that women who seek public office should expect that their integrity will be examined with an unforgiving eye. And same goes for men.
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