It’s going to happen eventually, or North Korea is going to implode. German reunification didn’t set that much of an impressive example. Prohibitively expensive and nearing 25 years and there’re still having massive problems. And East Germany was in much better shape than North Korea.
So how is a Korean reunification going to be handled and what will the results be?
It certainly will be a difficult task that will involve not just the government of Korea but those of her allies including the United States, but I believe that a program of gradual integration can be done so as to ensure the reunification of the Korean people.
Seriously? Considering the circumstances, I would argue that German reunification was extremely impressive. Ask East Berliners or Leipzigers whether they want to go back to the old days…
I imagine that Western money would pour in to make the transition a bit smoother. China’s input will be absolutely crucial: will they allow reunification, or try to keep the north as an area of influence?
I’m not so sure of that. Some of these regimes have a way of defying the odds and lasting for what seems an eternity (especially to the poor buggers living there). China is the key. As long as China continues to support it the regime can last indefinitely and there is every reason to suppose that China will continue the life support, as it would certainly not welcome a unified Korean client-state of the US on its borders, and that is how the Chinese would see it.
Which leaves only internal revolution. But again, even with a successful revolution which toppled the Kim family, that could only succeed through Chinese sponsorship and the result would not be a unified Korea.
In short Korea will not be unified without Chinese agreement and China has no reason to agree and every reason not to.
There’s actually quite a bit of Ostalgie going on. The reunification has cost more than 1.3 trillion euros (2009). And that’s only counting the direct transfer from the West to the East. I expect also the EU has poured in money. And then there’s all the indirect support. And still East Germany remains considerably poorer with higher unemployment rate, etc. Some parts of East Germany has become all but depopulated. Could South Korea afford a similar or higher (considering the poorer state of N-Korea) expense? They’d probably have to close the border to avoid having North Koreans flocking south.
I don’t see a lot of Western money pouring in. We can’t even be bothered to help Ukraine right on or doorstep. Why should we extend help to a nation on the other side of the world, when there’ll still be poorer countries in our own neighbourhood?
Cite? And is that the net cost, counting also the zillions of euros that Germany has made as a result of being able to trade and move freely between East and West?
Well, the West will help Ukraine - the association agreement with the EU is on the table, and I’m pretty sure any decent government in Russia will be kept above the surface by European money.
North Korea is obviously a much more extreme case. Sending money over to ease the transition would be a humanitarian effort rather than a political one. And I guess the Nordics and the Canadians will send all their peace-building experts to make things better too:D
That’s a very good question, and the answer (to the extent that the North Korean regime agrees to go along) will determine the success of any future reunification process.
I think attitudes will change as more North Koreans are exposed to the outside world. This is already happening through smuggled radios and USB thumb drives containing Western movies and South Korean soap operas. Frontline recently aired an excellent documentary film on this topic.
Maybe the death rattle of the regime will be a Pol Pot-level of self-genocide that kills 80% of the North’s population. Reunification would then consist of establishing refugee camps for the survivors and the South assuming control of whatever is worth occupying.
South Korea has been and continues to be a pretty good ally and trading partner to the United States which the Ukraine has been neither. The United States would would certainly provide some assistance to Korea.
Actually, 1.3 trillion would be a very conservative estimate. I’m seen many more in the 2 trillion + range.
However, what you’re missing is that Reunification was not only extremely costly, it became much more so both in material and human costs because it was handled so badly. While the eastern industrial base was not exactly up to snuff, there was a lot of value there. However, certain very bad decisions just gutted the Eastern economy. So no, Germany didn’t make zillions of dollars and the east remains an economic drain. A lot of its people in fact just up and moved west as they couldn’t get work anymore. Even Berlin’s reunification proved to be a pretty ugly process.
Which isn’t to say that the problems haven’t eased. But much of that comes because Germany has the catbird seat with respect to the Euro.
Maybe. But China might take a more pragmatic look at the situation.
Even the Chinese have to be frustrated with the antics of the Kim regime. I’m sure they’d be happier with a nice stable country on their border. Preferably, a nice socialist ally but that might not be in the cards.
If it came down to it, they might be willing to accept a capitalist unified Korea as long as it was strategically neutral. China would tolerate South Korea taking over the North and would pledge to respect Korean territory in exchange for an American troop withdrawal to Japan. Make Korea the East Asian equivalent of Austria.
I cannot comprehend why anyone would attempt to compare Ukraine and South Korea. They are radically different situations. We have been the patron of South Korea since 1952, we have had and still have thousands of soldiers and large pre-positioned military depots in South Korea, we have a large Korean-American population, Korea is in the middle of the strategically important sea of Japan, and we receive huge amounts of cars and consumer electronics from South Korea. (LG, Hyundai, Samsung, etc… I can’t name a single Ukrainian manufacturer.)
Not only is none of the above true for Ukraine, but quite the opposite: They have been a client state of Russia for decades and host Russian military forces and naval bases. Now, hopefully, this will change and Ukraine will make strong alliances with the west in the future. Regardless, until quite recently we’ve never had interests in Ukraine as strong as we have in South Korea.
And many of the comments above are quite correct: China is the 600 pound gorilla that props up North Korea, and everything depends on what China wants. There is every indication that they want to keep North Korea on life support for as long as possible. China doesn’t want a flood of refugees coming from North Korea any more than the south does… for all the reasons that have been mentioned before.
What I’m curious about is whether South Korea would be interested in a reunification. Now, call me short-sighted, but if I was in a situation like that, I’d look to the north, see just how badly they’re doing, how much investment would be needed to turn it into a place worth living, and think, “Man, I feel bad for them, but I don’t feel that bad”. I mean, according to Wikipedia a lot of people in South Korea feel that it’s inevitable, but to take it from the self-same article:
I mean, I suppose you have to balance the cost of reintegration with the potential cost of having an imploding country right next-door, with god knows what government in place when the dust settles… But I don’t know. As it stands, if I was in South Korea, I would not be in favor of reunification.
Comprehension lies in perspective. He said Western money and I assumed Western European/EU money as much as American. South Korea is pretty exotic and far away from here, North Korea almost exoteric, while Ukraine is a neighbouring country whereto I have been many times and know many people.
I don’t know about the USA, but I can’t see Europe going head over heels sending money to Korea. Don’t see why we should either, when we - even with a united Korea - will have European countries that are poorer. Actually I don’t really see the USA contribute substantially to a multi trillion dollar expense either. It’s just too much, you are deep in debt and have your own problems. Japan could use it as an opportunity to heal some of the historic animosity by going all in.
China also supported Burma’s dictatorship and it was still reformed.
So long as China is committed to “stability in the region,” the two Koreas will never reunite. It doesn’t have a thing to do with communism, American ally, democracy, or better economy for a reunified Korea. All that matters is that China’s government knows that a collapse of the North Korea regime will chuck stability out the window so fast that it’ll make gods blink.
China does not want, nor can it accommodate, the massive influx of refugees that would come a-calling. South Korea certainly doesn’t want to have essentially the entire population of North Korea migrating southward. The key difference between China and South Korea in regards to that, though, is South Korea already has in place border control that does not need North Korean guards to keep the refugees from crossing the border. If the North Korean regime collapses, then there are precious few hindrances to keep the refugees from crossing into China.
But, what the hey, say the North Korean regime collapses and there is no call from its victims or their relatives for justice to be exacted against those formerly in power. How similar do you think the two societies–North and South–are after six decades of enforced separation and, for the Northerners, basically an information blackout, not to mention the twisted history they’ve been taught? The German case is not that similar. For one thing, the East Germans could access West German Media. For another, they were not forced to worship their state’s founder as a living god. And I don’t mean that in some figurative sense.
No, the two Koreas are too different. Reunification is a nice buzzword but, in reality it’s nothing more than that.
It’ll never come up. So, no results. Oh, even if the CCP loses its grip on power, whoever takes over in China, be it a democracy or another one-party state, will likely hold to the “stability in the region” line. China’s a bit busy trying to take care of its own people without having an influx of millions of Koreans.