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'Act less smart,’ Saenuri lawmaker advises female politicians

Rep. Kim Eul-dong, a female second-term lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, came under fire for suggesting that female lawmakers should “pretend to be less smart” in order to befriend the public.

“The Korean public sentiment tends to find it uncomfortable when women seem too smart, so I believe it is more advantageous to make a less intellectual face,” she was quoted as saying.

Kim’s controversial comments came Wednesday during the party’s convention of female preliminary candidates for the upcoming April general election, in which she participated as a senior mentor.

It was, in fact, a response to former Gender Equality Minister Kim Hee-jung, who had inquired about election campaign strategies that are effective for female runners.

“It often helps to just nod and always say yes, no matter what,” the Seoul lawmaker said.

“People tend to feel more at ease when they are not intimidated (by the candidate).”

She also described how she socialized with elderly women at marketplaces in her constituencies and joked about how she and they looked alike, an approach she claimed had been successful in her last two elections.

Rep. Kim Eul-dong (Yonhap)
Rep. Kim Eul-dong (Yonhap)

Kim’s “advice” was met with little resistance from the 68 female aspiring lawmakers on the scene, but immediately kindled disputes among critics. Some even pointed out the irony that Kim, despite her disparaging attitude toward society’s view of female intellect, had a judge as a daughter-in-law, the wife of her actor son Song Il-guk.

“The greatest political reform of our times is the election of a female president,” party chief Kim Moo-sung had said earlier in his opening speech for the meeting.

Calling for the need to promote gender equality in the National Assembly, the party decided to offer 10 percent in extra credit to all female candidates and another 10 percent to rookies. It also said that it would allocate 60 percent or more of its proportional representative candidacies to women.

Kim is a second-term lawmaker, the daughter of well-known gangster Kim Du-han, and the granddaughter of Kim Chwa-chin, an independence fighter.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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