Korea, divided or united

28/02/2012 | 08:30 - 10:00 | DGAP | Invitation only

Expert Round Table

Category: South Korea

What chances are there for a Korean unification? What are the plans of the South Korean government to further promote an approach between Pyongyang and Seoul? How can they benefit from the German experiences? The Minister for Unification of the Republic of Korea, Woo-ik Yu, talked about these and other questions on February 28 at the DGAP.

For years, Seoul has tried to ease the relationship with Pyongyang and to work for a peaceful unification, Yu said. However, all attempts failed because of the firm stance of the North Korean government. North Korea is in a very difficult economic situation and isolated within the International Community. Moreover, it is uncertain which direction the country will take under its new young and inexperienced ruler. Pyongyang should start to open doors that have been closed for a long time, break the vicious circle of poverty and isolation and improve the live of the North Korean population. “The phase of talking has passed. Now, it is time to act.”

Seoul is willing to cooperate with Pyongyang in finding solutions to these concerns. The South Korean government has no intention to destabilize or overturn the North Korean system, Yu stressed. “We want to pave the way for shared prosperity and unification.”

He learned from the German unification that a divided nation must not limit its actions on administering its partition, but to actively prepare for unification, Yu said. Therefore, it is necessary to build a permanent channel of dialogue between South and North Korea and to include important neighbors like China, Japan and Russia in the negotiation process. In addition to that, he has introduced a draft bill in parliament on creating a fund for unification, in which South Koreans from inside and outside the country can donate. This “pot for unification” tends to enable the South Korean population to actively participate in the process. Yu hopes to collect 50 Billion Dollar within the next twenty years in order to finance the reconstruction of North Korea during the first year of unification. According to Yu, the major problem is, that the younger generation’s will for unification is decreasing.

Korea can learn a lot from the German unification, concerning the costs, the transfer from planned economy to market economy and how to deal with refugees. Furthermore, Germany can take part in the negotiations between North and South Korea, since it was one of the first Western countries to open a representation in Seoul and Pyongyang and is advising the South Korean government through a committee of experts on the question of unification. It is, however, unlikely that the North Korean population is going to rise against their ruler: “The North Koreans have no experience with a civil society and live without any information about the outside world. Thus, a “North Korean Spring” is not to be expected.”

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