It’s very rare that an election in any country is anything but a choice between the lesser of two evils. For a brief moment at least, South Korea’s election will be an exception to that dreary rule, because Kim Moon Soo has said he will run for president. Years ago, before he was elected as Governor of Kyonggi Province, I profiled Kim here and here.
On Saturday morning, while conversing with my wife, I was lamenting that Park Geun Hye, despite her authoritarian baggage and tendencies, was probably the only candidate in the South Korean presidential race who would be a competent, stable, and tough leader. Not that Park’s authoritarian streak is that much worse than that of Lee Myung Bak — whom I’ve accused of inheriting the same fascist-influenced legacy as Park. (For that matter, the ex-human rights lawyer Roh Moo Hyun, for whom the idea of human rights meant nothing as applied to those Koreans unfortunate enough to live north of the DMZ, was no defender of freedom of conscience in the South, either.) I admire Park’s poise and cool under fire, and I’m even old enough to think she’s still on the nearer side of dreamy (yes, my wife and I discussed that part, too). Like her father, I suspect that in her own way, she probably has a certain steely integrity. I suspect she would be a competent administrator. But does she have a vision for her nation? If she does, it’s one of the many things about Park Geun Hye that remains hidden within.
The man I’ve always thought could be a truly great president for South Korea is Governor Kim, who was an activist demanding democracy when demanding democracy meant doing time in the prisons of Ms. Park’s father. And Kim, in stark contrast to Park, has long been an uncompromising advocate for human rights for Koreans living under the iron heel of the Kim Dynasty. I’m glad he’s running, and I think he’s the candidate who is most likely to unify Korea. He’s a man that a libertarian conservative or a conscientious liberal can support without reservation. I wish he could win, but Park has been carefully preparing the battlefield for her presidential run for six years, and it shows in her strength. Her machine will roll right over him. I hope he’ll be back in 2018.