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Harris, on Asia trip, promotes a political priority–women’s rights

SEOUL — Vice President Harris and her team set goals for her four-day trip to Asia before she left the United States. It is to honor the assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, strengthen US partnerships with Japan and South Korea, and promote the US economy and economy. safety.

But the more delicate and political goals were left largely unmentioned. It is to hone Harris’ role on the critical issue of women’s rights, a delicate mission in his two male-dominated countries that lag far behind other developed nations in gender equity.

It was a balancing act for Harris. Japan and South Korea are strong allies, and the United States sees them as vital in countering China’s growing aggression, and she has come to strengthen ties with them. But at every turn the Vice President sought to highlight the divide that exists between men and women and to provide living proof that a fairer path exists.

“I strongly believe that society as a whole succeeds when women succeed,” she said Thursday at a roundtable for women in South Korea. I believe it is measured by strength and status…If we want to strengthen our democracy, we must pay attention to gender equality and work hard to empower women in all areas.”

As well as merit, the issue gave Harris an opportunity to hone his credentials on subjects he had held politically at home.Harris has struggled to find issues that establish her as a powerful leader, and in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling Dobbs This decision made her more outspoken in her support of abortion rights and women’s issues. Her visit to Asia provided a way to make a point domestically without causing a ruckus, but diplomacy was tricky.

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At almost every stop there was a conspicuous shortage of women on the Japanese and Korean sides. At a business roundtable in Japan, Harris and her entourage were the only women at an event filled with mostly identically dressed Japanese male CEOs.Attendees at Abe’s funeral were so male as local reporter wrote men’s restroom meander And an almost empty women’s restroom.

Evidence A of Harris’s gender argument was, of course, Harris himself. She made history as the first woman to hold a nationally elected office in the United States. On Thursday, she became the highest-ranking American woman to tour the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean peninsula. This is the latest in her first conveyor belt in her 20 months as Vice President.

Japanese and Korean societies are the most male-dominated societies of the world’s major economies. These countries consistently rank last and second to last respectively among industrial democracies in gender equality in society, health care, pay equity and professional development. . Observers often point out that career-seeking women in their early 30s and beyond receive little support when facing societal pressure to drop out of the workforce.

Women represent less than 10% of Japan’s 465 members of parliament, while 27% are women in the US Congress, which is still a poor reflection of the population. Two of Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s 19 cabinet members are women, falling short of the record of five. In Japan, there are very few women in corporate boardrooms.

Gender was an issue that received even more attention prior to Harris’ trip to South Korea, where women’s rights were upheld. important topic presidential election this spring.

Harris raised the broader issue of gender inequality in a closed-door meeting with South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol, according to a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity to address the sensitive conversation. A source said, “In the room, Mr. Yoon understood the problem, understood that we had priorities, and showed sincerity that he wanted to work with us.” .

Yoon’s office says he raised the gender issue with Harris himself. The president’s office said ahead of Harris’ roundtable meeting with South Korea’s female leaders, Yoon told Harris that he hoped the event would “produce worthy results” for his country.

South Korea elected its first and only female president ten years ago. This female president was the daughter of a former president who was later impeached and deposed for corruption.

During the campaign, Yoon vowed to abolish the country’s Ministry of Gender Equality and sought the support of so-called “anti-feminist” male activists. He says he does not believe that systemic “structural discrimination based on gender” exists.

But he faces increasingly powerful challenges to that view. During President Biden’s visit to Asia in May, Yun stumbled upon his reaction To the question whether South Korea can become the world’s leading democracy if it is very difficult for Korean women to get promoted.

He stood motionless for a while, removed the earphones that received the translation, and seemed to stumble upon his answer.

“If you look at the civil service sector, especially cabinet ministers, so far, we haven’t seen many women promoted to the position. Perhaps in different areas, on equal footing,” she said. According to the official translation, he said.”Opportunities for women have never been fully guaranteed. In fact, the history of guaranteeing them is very short. So what we are trying to do is is to be very proactive in ensuring that women have such opportunities.”

After a while, the interpreter announced the end of the press conference.

A few days later, Yoon appointed two female experts to fill vacancies in the cabinet and another to co-head the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

South Korea’s record raises certain cultural clashes with the Biden administration. record number of womenincluding the first female Treasury Secretary and the first female Intelligence Director.

Biden administration officials and U.S. diplomats have been looking for more-or-less subtle ways to point out the divide to South Koreans.

Harris’ husband and second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, traveled to South Korea in May for Yoon’s inauguration. talked to Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo on the impact of Harris’ role.

“I was just at an embassy meeting. People who work here and women in the military approached me, some with tears in their eyes, holding my hand and asking me what she meant. I told them to make sure I told them what was going on,” Emhoff said. “The fact that my wife has been able to go from district attorney to attorney general to senator to the current vice president of the United States shows what women across our country and around the world can do. increase.”

In July, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen traveled to Tokyo and Seoul to make a clear push for women’s professional and leadership advancements, and economies that are stronger when women are allowed to enter, thrive and lead. claimed to be. “Even in the world’s most advanced economy, it’s still all too rare for a woman to be at the top,” a statement on her Twitter account read in part.

Gender equality wasn’t the only issue that ties domestic politics and foreign policy together for Harris this week. Harris did on a four-day business trip what Biden did nearly four months ago in an attempt to strengthen U.S. security and economic interests in areas such as electric vehicles and semiconductors.

Officials in Japan and South Korea have expressed concerns about Biden’s inflation-cutting bill, which gives tax credits to people who buy US-made electric cars, and Harris sought to allay those concerns. In the final full day of , Harris met with Japanese technology leaders and said the United States is looking for new investments and partnerships in semiconductor manufacturing.

The importance of semiconductor chips has been underscored during the pandemic as the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted supply chains, created shortages and increased the cost of consumer goods. The U.S. is trying to increase domestic chip production and strengthen technology partnerships with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

At a meeting at the US Ambassador’s residence in Japan, Harris said, “Our country’s citizens and people depend on products without even knowing how much they depend on semiconductor chips.

Later that day, in a speech aboard the USS Howard destroyer, Harris pledged to strengthen “unofficial ties” with Taiwan. A few days after I said I would use

“China uses military and economic power to coerce and intimidate its neighbors,” Harris said on the deck of a destroyer during a visit to the largest U.S. naval installation outside the United States. . “We have also witnessed disturbing actions in the East and South China Seas, and more recently provocations in the Taiwan Strait.”

Harris also emphasized security during a tour of the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean peninsula, citing an “ironproof” commitment to advancing South Korea’s security goals.

But she also made a point of meeting personally with South Korea’s female leaders to hear them talk about their struggles and how they achieved success despite their disabilities.

“Many systemic cultural issues are slowing progress. [South Korea]’ said a senior government official. “From her anchor on the nation’s first female TV news to a female CEO struggling with childcare, the conversation focused on barriers to success. But it’s optimistic, as each woman has overcome such barriers.” was a trend.



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