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Boudica

Is Park Geun-Hye Too Tough?

South Korean president is facing criticism for being too hawkish (read: mannish) with North Korea.

Female global leaders have always walked the razor-thin tightrope between needing to seem tough enough to take on the world's bad guys, but not too aggressive, which usually brings up accusations of unlikeability and betraying their gender. (One need only to look to the passing of Margaret Thatcher this week to see how her Iron Lady steeliness is still being debated and despised.)

The latest head of state to grapple with this unfortunate balancing act is Park Geun-Hye, South Korea's new president and the daughter of the country's famed, feared former dictator, Park Chung-hee. Throughout her long life in the public eye, the 61-year-old Ms. Park has shown the grit and determination necessary to survive and move past the assassinations of not one, but both, of her parents, as well as a razor attack on her own life in 2006, which left her face permanently scarred.

This resilience certainly helped land her in the Blue House, but now the Times reports that critics and supporters alike are muttering that she's being too bellicose in her dealings with North Korea, which has escalated its belligerent language in recent weeks and hinted at an impending nuclear missile launch. Of course, no one--not the U.S., not China, nor Park herself--can really tell how serious the erratic North Korean military, and its new kooky child-king Kim Jong-Un, are about the launch. But Park's not taking any chances, and she's responded to the threat by vowing to strike back "without political consideration" if the South is attacked. And suddenly, what had once been seen as an advantage in her election campaign--namely that she is, as one analyst told the Times, "not a woman--she is [her father] Park Chung-hee personified in a woman's body"--is now making the Obama administration skittish that she, like her father, will not hesitate to play hardball with Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been tauntingly describing Park as a "venomous swish of skirt," a reference to an old Korean phrase about a woman who forgets her supposed place.

Read it at The New York Times

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