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South Korean women pin hopes on leader

Park Geun-hye is Seoul’s first female leader.

Park Geun-hye is Seoul’s first female leader.

SEOUL — The country with the developed world’s biggest gender-income gap has its first female president, but Park Geun-hye already has South Koreans wondering whether she will improve the status of women in a society still dominated by men.

Wearing a traditional Korean dress of red and gold silk, Park strode up the steps of the presidential Blue House after her inauguration Monday. So far, she has chosen only two women to join her in top positions — two fewer than a male liberal predecessor.

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Park’s election in December was an important moment for women in South Korea, who on average earn nearly 40 percent less than men, the largest gap among the 26 member nations of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development. South Korean women are often paid less for doing the same work as men and seldom rise to the top of high-profile industries.

Critics, however, are taking note that Park has nominated women for only two of 18 Cabinet posts — and that one of those positions, the minister responsible for gender equality, has not been held by a man since being launched in 2001.

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