From The Economist (Dec. 12-18):

South Koreans are an impatient lot. They were impatient to turn their war-ruined country into a prosperous industrial power, and in the past quarter-century they have increased the volume of their industrial production 50-fold, that of their exports 100-fold and their real gross domestic product nine-fold. They are now impatient to become a full-fledged democracy. Six months ago it seemed that the military-backed government of President Chun Doo Hwan would stagger into the year of the Seoul Olympics in, at best, a cloud of tear gas. Instead {today} 26 million South Koreans are due to vote freely . . . their first chance to do so since 1971. . . .

The trouble is that democracy still has to put down roots in South Korea. The candidates' supporters think that eggs and stones are the right response to an opponent's speech; riot will be their first thought if their man loses. The candidates themselves believe parties are there to serve them: which is why Kim Dae Jung thought nothing of creating a party from scratch a couple of months ago, when he decided to challenge Kim Young Sam as the opposition's candidate.

Earthy Korea's version of democracy need not -- and will not -- resemble the over-polite Japanese variety. Yet the Koreans need to learn, and quickly, a form of political give-and-take they have had no practice with. After the presidential election, which will be won on a minority vote, comes a difficult two-month transition until the new man takes over from Mr. Chun. In the spring comes a parliamentary election which will probably produce a legislature that the new president's party does not control. . . . {T}he faster {Korea's politicians} learn the virtues of democratic patience, the less excuse Korea's generals will have for reimposing their own kind of order.