According to the New York Times, the presidential election was “so plagued by a series of scandals and marred by mudslinging between the parties that some in the electorate took to calling it a contest between two “unlikables.”
Conservative vs. liberal, experience vs political neophyte. Soaring housing prices, gender issues, a resurgent virus. dirty tricks. It was politics at its dirtiest.
But when the votes (over 31 million in a country of 51 million) were counted earlier this week, one candidate in South Korea’s presidential election, Mr. Yoon Suk-yeol of the People Power Party, held a minuscule lead of about 0.8 percentage points. And at 4 o’clock in the morning, his major opponent, Mr. Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party, did something that in the present-day US feels remarkable. Mr. Lee conceded the election.
Yes, you read that correctly. Not only did Mr. Lee concede to Mr. Yoon, as of today no one has called the election fake, fraudulent, corrupt, or a big lie.
Mr. Yoon will take office on May 10. At this time there are no lawsuits to deny him the presidency, no insane press conferences scheduled at Four Seasons Landscaping of Seoul, and the loser, Mr. Lee, has not been ignominiously banned from Twitter.
I lack in-depth knowledge of the politics of South Korea and know even less about the policies Mr. Yoon will favor. I suppose the talking heads on CNN and on Fox News will disagree about whether his victory is good or bad for the US. Not many people here will watch or care.
But what is most notable to me is that even in this day and age of social networking and misinformation, even with (or perhaps because of) a lunatic with a bad haircut staring at it from across its northern border, a country can still figure out how to do this most important part of democracy, the peaceful transition of power, and how to do it right.
And those of you in our country who don’t get that should be thoroughly ashamed.