The election of Kim Dae-jung, 73, is being hailed as South Koreans' lunge for mature democracy. The margin of his victory, a single percentage point, is a sign of how tightly the ruling party could still hold on even after the outgoing government had shown itself to be rife with corruption and had presided over South Korea's fast trip from the world's eleventh-largest economy to being on the IMF dole.
Wall Street is worried; two weeks ago Kim was running on a promise to renegotiate the stringent terms IMF bailout. He has since backed down, and the IMF says he is now on board. In an election that was one of the closest in the country's history, neither candidate could promise to dispel the IMF's storm cloud. At least Kim could tell voters he had done nothing to bring it over their heads.