South Korea—leading by example?

As a nation South Korea is only 69 years old; the United States, 241.

Democracy in South Korea goes back only to 1987 when it eliminated all vestiges of authoritarian rule and replaced them with democratic provisions.

Democracy in the United States (which is technically a republic but one with democratic principles) goes back, one might say, to the Mayflower Compact, 397 years ago.

Yesterday South Korea—that fledgling democracy—upheld those democratic principles by impeaching and ultimately removing a corrupt President, Park Geun-hye, whose shady business deals had embarrassed the country and lined the pockets of corporate executives, as well as those of her childhood friend Choi Soon-sil. Ms. Park is the daughter of a former South Korean authoritarian president famous for tax cuts and anti-labor policies. For her part she blacklisted thousands of artists and writers with whom she disagreed. (I don’t know if she banned them from press conferences.)

The comparison between the two countries and their current situations is striking. In terms of financial corruption and self-promotion Ms. Park and Donald Trump ride the same rails. Among her other misdeeds she has brought shame upon a successful South Korean company, Samsung; Trump has refused to release tax returns which, many conjecture, would display the same kinds of nefarious activity, but with foreign powers.

Ms. Park may very well end up in jail. Whatever happens, she will be replaced by a more liberal successor because the South Korean people demanded a return to democratic rule. Maybe because their democracy is so young that they can remember what it was like before. Maybe we can’t, having been spoiled by the country that is owed to us. I think we’re beginning to see that it isn’t.

Unlike Ms. Park, Mr. Trump is unlikely to be imprisoned—miscreants and con-men like Bernie Madoff remain the exception. Still, Trump’s impeachment and a return to Queens would satisfy me. And maybe we could throw in that liberal successor?

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