Difficult Election, Difficult TransitionIt has finally been determined that Governor George W. Bush of Texas will become the 43rd president of the United States. Vice President Al Gore''s official concession yesterday ends over a month of legal battling between the two candidates, which has left a wound on American democracy that may be hard to heal. Having gained his much-sought-after prize, Mr. Bush seems to have wound up in an unenviable position rather than one in which he can sit back and enjoy his victory.
This year''s election has vividly revealed a divided America. Public opinion seemed clearly split along lines separating blacks and whites, the elderly and the young, urban and rural areas, the haves and the have-nots, and even the courts seemed to dance to a partisan tune. Mr. Gore urged citizens to unite around the president-elect, and Mr. Bush also asked for cooperation across party lines, but it will be quite a while before the dust of this fray settles. Mr. Bush''s first order of business will be to show by his actions that his promise to be a president for all the people, no matter what their affiliation or background, is not just words. If he does not succeed in this, he will be constantly shackled by questions of his legitimacy and characterized as a minority president who won the election but lost the vote, or as a president made by the courts.
The pride of the United States in being the world''s textbook model of democracy has come out of this contest limping badly. That nation would do well to take to heart the international community''s derisive comments about Americans'' not knowing how to make a proper ballot, mark it correctly or even count ballots properly. The United States needs to revise or replace the electoral college system, which does not truly reflect the will of the voters, and should institute clearly defined standards for ballot design and vote counting to ensure that no matter how close an election may be in the future, there will be no need to resort to the courts ever again.
This is the second task the Bush administration should set itself to. As Koreans, we will be watching intently to see what direction the Bush administration will take in foreign policy and how that policy will affect the Korean Peninsula and its neighbors. President-elect Bush has said he will rethink the interventionist policy of the Clinton administra-tion. He is known to be skeptical of the carrot-rather- than-stick approach to North Korea, preferring a harder line to the current open-arms attitude.
In view of the way foreign-policy decisions are made in Washington, with experts from both inside and outside the administration participating, we do not foresee any fundamental change in United States policy toward Korea. Nevertheless, some change away from the current policy of appeasement appears inevitable, and the pace of rapprochement will surely change accordingly.
With the launch of a new administration in Washington, there may be a period during which dealings between Seoul and Washington are a bit awkward. The Korean government, having become accustomed to the ways of the Clinton administration over the past eight years, will have to make an extra effort to minimize the problems of adjustment. Our two countries'' long tradition of friendly relations will serve us well in this regard. Still, there are areas where greater care should be taken. The Republicans traditionally much more strongly support open international markets than the Democrats, so we will have to be on guard against the possibility of generating any unnecessary trade friction with the new American adminisration.