An urgent appeal to the loserDid you prepare a concession speech? Did you write every single word of it with all your heart - with sincerity?
You are now standing in the most weighty position at the most critical moment of Korea’s history. Believe it or not, you are more important at this moment than the victor in the election. Whether Korea will become a truly advanced country that brings together industrialization and democratization, or whether Korea will just stumble along, depends on you.
You are not a loser. Nearly half the voters supported you. Because there can only be one president, the process chose one of the two candidates. But there are almost as many people who supported you as supported your rival.
Do you want every single one of your supporters to be disappointed and repelled? Do you want every one of them who listened to you when you talked about unity and the future to be trapped in the schisms of the past? Your genuine concession and appeal to your supporters will demonstrate your true leadership. It could bring the country to a new, unified place.
Through this presidential election, we have already accomplished so much. Groundless accusations flew, as they always have, but the smear campaigns stopped short of affecting the election compared to presidential elections held five and 10 years ago. The brouhaha involving a National Intelligence Service agent was relatively insignificant in comparison to the crippling draft-dodging allegations against Lee Hoi-chang’s son in 2002 or the persistent financial fraud accusations against Lee Myung-bak in 2007.
Throughout the campaign, the two candidates were provided by their aides with accusations they could use against each other, but they hardly touched them. Both candidates kept their manners and their dignity. The fact that they didn’t cross any “bridges of no return” is a valuable sign that we’ve matured and have a better political future.
Although critics pointed out that the candidates’ policies did not vary much, that could be a good thing. It means that a national consensus has been almost reached in a larger framework on expanding welfare benefits, and the policies of the leftist and the rightist have overlapped. The ruling and opposition parties have many urgent and important issues to agree on, and none can dare to completely reverse a pledge just because the election is over.
Both candidates promised to expand welfare benefits and both failed to come up with solid plans to fund them. The problem is shared by both sides, and the ruling and opposition parties can strike a compromise on this issue harmoniously, as they must have known that they were going too far during the campaign.
Before the presidential election, many argued that a grand coalition or a bipartisan cabinet is the only way to run this divided country on a divided peninsula, regardless of the election outcome. The victor must think about this issue seriously. The loser must also be ready to respond.
This is precisely why your concession is extremely important.
The winner will face hardships. The winner must worry, make decisions, be criticized for them and take responsibility. It might have been you who had to deal with such burdens. If you truly thought about this country’s future as a candidate, you also have responsibilities as the loser to bring about the unity you also promised during the campaign.
Whether you will remain in politics or not, you are responsible to make sure that an election will never be a confrontation of hatred. You must be the first successful loser of this country to open the path for the first truly successful president of Korea.
We all know now that political compromise is the only way to resolve various issues involving the widening wealth gap and welfare programs. For those with vested interests - whether they are conglomerates or employees with full-time work - to give up what they have and work together until a new growth engine and a new order are settled down, we have no choice but to rely on political resolutions. The younger generation will strictly monitor the politicians and the government as it borrows from the future to resolve the problems of today.
What we need is a political settlement between generations, not just between classes. To achieve the goal, the loser is more important than ever.
You promised to win this election and realize a new future for Korea. Although you unfortunately lost this time, that promise remains unchanged. Although you may not be the victor, you must show your leadership for the future of this country. You must use your wisdom, expertise and insights as a prominent presidential candidate to create energy for the nation’s reconciliation and unity.
Our hopes are high for your concession speech.
* The author is the editor in chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Su-gil