On the Plane

In Seoul, 'Dear Secretary'

By Glenn Kessler
SEOUL--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had lots to say Friday at the world's largest university for women, making the case for greater gender equality and combating any backlash against women's rights; and, on a more policy-oriented note, expressing a desire to improve U.S.-North Korea relations if Pyonyang eliminates its nuclear program.

The mostly female audience of about 2,000 at Ewha Womans University--students, but also movie stars, politicians, designers and others from the cream of Korean female society--listened in rapture.

Then came the questions.

Was there anything else she wanted to be?

How does a woman balance marriage and work?

How does she deal with disappointment?

How did she know Bill Clinton was the one for her?

How much does she love Chelsea?

How would she define love?

For the diplomatic correspondents traveling with Clinton, it was a bit much. What would Henry Kissinger say?

"She's become special envoy for Dear Abby," quipped one reporter.

Clinton herself echoed the sentiment, exclaiming, "I feel more like an advice columnist than a Secretary of State today!"

But she handled the softball questions with aplomb. She spoke of the "discipline of gratitude," the idea that one should try to be grateful for at least one thing each day no matter how dark things seem, and earned appreciative giggles when she mentioned noticing the flowers trying to break through the snow as she headed off to her meetings with Korean government officials earlier in the day.

Joohee Cho, who was once an ace stringer for The Post in Seoul, explained that politicians in Korea never speak about such personal matters in public. But Clinton's memoir was a huge best seller in Korea, and because it was so personal, there was an expectation that she would be willing to handle such topics.

The university went all out for Clinton's town hall meeting, with massive TV screens, a specially designed backdrop and giant banners welcoming her. Officials noted that Clinton was joining the ranks of Queen Elizabeth and president of Ireland as honored guests who have visited the campus.

Cho predicted that the next day's news coverage would be huge.

By Washington Post Editor |  February 20, 2009; 5:28 AM ET  | Trip:  Clinton in Asia, February 2009
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I do not know what point you are trying to make. What questions should have been asked. How to do peacefull demonstrations, the best way to get a wild cat strike organnzed or to make durable signs saying over throw the government if they do not give women equal pay. Besides, women are different, at least when they want to be. Do you think Kissinger would have gone to the same University and given the same speech. Had he done so as a single father raising children and pointing this out in a empathic and sharing manner that he understood their problems and daily toil he may have been. Also, you say they were softball-that aconfused me is that why you did not like them. Should she have got some Sarah Palin questions about whether she neglected Chelsea by spending so much time away from her as senator and 1st lady etc and staying with Bill thru all that embarrassment. Did you mail this article in? Even as a man I can see wear those questions could have been developed and are important to the primary home or house and family maintainor. Unfortunately whoever that is is faced with some "chaning diaper questions." Especially when you do not want to get your tongue pulled out for saying the wrong thing. Thank you Bil

Posted by: BILL | February 20, 2009 12:26 PM

Sorry about the Korea mix up. Jumped in the article too quickly. Bill

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2009 12:29 PM

Great post! Had a chuckle at the "Dear Abby" comment. Hillary is a born communicator and her empathetic nature is such that she truly LISTENS to people. I'm not surprised by the love shown to her by Koreans. She's a universal symbol of strong womanhood who's overcome some pretty severe obstacles in life and has dedicated herself to PUBLIC SERVICE! Too bad she's not the Prez! Hillary shines wherever she goes...

Posted by: msakel2 | February 21, 2009 4:03 PM

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