|Female police officers pose for a photo during a ceremony in this 2008 file photo. / Korea Times file|
By Kim Se-jeong
The mood at the National Police Agency (NPA) has been mixed lately.
President Moon Jae-in's outspoken support for the agency to have more investigative power has made officers of the police agency enthusiastic.
Finally, they may gain independence in carrying out investigations without external forces breathing down their necks.
On the other hand, the agency suffers from longtime public criticism for its own corruption, moral hazard, lack of a public service mindset and the disregard of human rights, among others.
The police agency could start its own reform by nominating a woman as its next police commissioner.
The incumbent NPA Commissioner General Lee Chul-sung's term will end in June.
Not much information about potential candidates has surfaced as to who can succeed Lee.
Out of 120,000 officers, the number of female officers is almost 13,000. There is bound to be one of them who can be fit for the job.
Kim In-ok was one of the few female police officers promoted to a high-ranking position. She became the first female superintendent general, the fourth highest rank, in 2004. Kim was again promoted to head the Jeju Provincial Police Agency in 2005.
In 2013, Lee Geum-hyung became the first female commissioner of Busan Police Agency, the second-highest rank after the NPA commissioner.
The police agency will make a recommendation, and the President will appoint the next NPA chief.
The time is ripe for the first female commissioner at Korea's police agency, just like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Veterans Affairs.
It is time to appoint a Barbara Gordon-type police commissioner just as in "Batman Beyond" who can not only fight crime and corruption and bring criminals to justice, but also lead change from within.
A female police chief can also signal change to the public when social distrust in law enforcement is high.
Anti-government protests under former President Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak and how the police handled them in the streets using excessive force explains where the distrust stems from.
The police used force to suppress protesters who had the right to gather there and speak out.
At one of the 2015 protests, police used a water cannon that hit farmer Baek Nam-gi who later died. Making it worse, the police refused to recognize its mistake for a long time.
A female chief can send a signal for change within the organization, which is one of Korea's most male-dominated groups. Its authoritative atmosphere is notorious.
She could change this atmosphere and how officers treat each other within the agency, which will eventually impact the way police officers interact with citizens.
One can also hope for a change in how the police deal with sexual violence.
As the recent #MeToo movement has been showing, sexual violence is common in Korea, happening in almost every sector ranging from entertainment and manufacturing to services and education.
One of the common complaints found among female victims is that investigators, mostly male police officers, cannot, or refuse to, comprehend the scope of emotional pain they go through.
This can be improved with a female officer in charge.
Looking outside Korea, female police chiefs are a growing trend.
On March 9, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Brenda Lucki, the first woman to lead the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which had been plagued by sexual harassment and discrimination accusations.
Lucki, a veteran officer serving the force for 31 years, will be inaugurated later this month.
In February last year, London also appointed its first female police chief, Cressida Dick.
She is a retired police officer having served 31 years, and has returned to lead the force.
The Korean police should follow these examples.