Visiting Korea to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Park Geun-hye, the vice-president of Peru had a simple three-word suggestion for what Korea’s first female head of state should do over the next five years ― “work, work, work.”
The answer was hardly flippant coming from Peruvian First Vice President Marisol Espinoza. She knows something about hard work. She is not only her country’s first female vice president, but also the single mother of a teenage girl.
|Peruvian First Vice President Marisol Espinoza speaks with The Korea Herald during an interview at a hotel in Seoul, Monday. (Peruvian Embassy)|
“I had to dispel two powerful myths when I entered public life. The first one was the myth that women cannot participate in politics and the second one was that women cannot do the same things as men,” Espinoza said during a face-to-face interview with The Korea Herald, just after the inauguration ceremony.
“That means work,” she said.
Espinoza entered politics in 2006 as a legislative representative for one of the South American nation’s most important coastal ports in the Piura region. She is serving a second term as her district’s representative in the country’s 120-member legislature, as well as acting as her country’s No. 2 in the executive.
“The truth is: Yes, we can. We can do them as well or even better than men,” she said, adding that her first challenge was convincing her supporters that she could represent them effectively. “In Latin America, politics are traditionally a male activity so it requires double effort by women; it is a big challenge not just as a politician but also as a citizen.”
“There are challenges but there are also accomplishments and, on balance, the accomplishments were more.”
Espinoza cited the development of a major infrastructure project that brought safe drinking water to the poorer and remote parts of her district as a major accomplishment in her seven years as a legislator. She said access to safe drinking water remained an important challenge for Peru.
Of Peru’s population of some 30 million people, about 5 million have no access to safe drinking water, and piped water means improved sanitation. In the 1990s, poor sanitation led to an outbreak of cholera that killed 3,000 people and spread across the region.
What Peru needs now is foreign direct investment for other development projects, Espinoza said.
Peru hit on a unique partnership with Korea that she believes is a win-win for both countries. Peru and Korea forged a comprehensive strategic partnership when Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and former President Lee Myung-bak met last year in Lima. The two countries also inked a free trade deal in 2011.
Two-way trade was about $3.5 billion in 2012. This year, Peru and Korea celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations with a number of special events planned here and in the Andean nation. As part of those celebrations, Espinoza invited Park and the future foreign minister, whoever finally assumes the position, to visit Peru to mark the milestone year.
By Philip Iglauer (firstname.lastname@example.org