South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has nominated the person he hopes will become the country's first female prime minister. If confirmed, Han Myung-sook could take the job just weeks before local elections expected to set the tone for the country's political future.
Just days after South Korea's last prime minister resigned in disgrace, President Roh Moo-hyun says he has found the right woman for the job.
Han Myung-sook, a two-term member of South Korea's legislature, is only the second woman ever to be nominated for the post.
Han says she has worked to advance women's interests in the past.
She says she realizes many of South Korea's marginalized women are also counting on her to represent them in the future.
Han, 61, started her political career as a dissident fighting the country's military dictators in the 1970s and 1980s. She was jailed for two years for pro-democracy activities in 1979.
Under President Roh, Han has served as South Korea's minister of gender equality, and the environment minister.
As prime minister, her duties would be mainly ceremonial. However, President Roh Moo-hyun often has delegated domestic policy areas to the prime minister.
Han's nomination comes in the lead up to local elections across South Korea on May 31st. The voting for local officials could set the tone for presidential elections at the end of next year.
President Roh's ruling Uri party is trailing in domestic polls, and political experts say the conservative opposition Grand National Party, or G.N.P., could take more seats.
G.N.P. leaders are calling for Han to quit her affiliation with the Uri party, to avoid inappropriately influencing the upcoming elections. She has refused, saying the gesture would not make any difference.
The Uri party does not have a majority in Parliament, which must confirm Han's appointment as prime minister. Park Ki-duck, vice president of the Sejong Institute in Seoul - a leading political research organization - says the G.N.P. could make Han's confirmation process difficult.
Park says a key point in Han's favor is her clean image - with no connection to scandals.
Lee Hae-chan, the previous prime minister, resigned last week over a controversial golf game he played during a nationwide rail strike. A spokeswoman for Han Myung-sook confirms she does not play golf.