News / Asia

South Korea Committee to Prepare for Reunification with North

FILE - South Korea's President Park Geun-hye.
FILE - South Korea's President Park Geun-hye.
Daniel Schearf
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye, has announced a committee to prepare for reunification with North Korea. President Park said unifying with the north would be an economic bonanza, but analysts say the south would face a heavy financial and legal burden.
President Park announced the plans to create a blue print for reuniting South Korea with the North on Tuesday.
In a televised speech marking her first year in office, Park said she would form a preparatory committee directly under the presidential office. She said the committee will expand dialogue and private exchanges with Pyongyang.
She also said the committee will allow all levels of society to participate, including experts in diplomacy, security, economics, sociology and culture, and private organizations. In this way, she said, they will create a national discussion on reunification and make a concrete blueprint of a 'unified Korean peninsula'.
The two Koreas have remained divided since World War II separated them into a Soviet-influenced North and an U.S.-influenced South.
Both Pyongyang and Seoul have reunification as a goal, but neither side specifies how they want it to happen, or under whose leadership.
Most experts agree the wealthy South would have to pay the costs of absorbing the impoverished North.
President Park in a New Year's speech described merging South Korea's advanced technology with North Korea's resources and cheap labor as an economic jackpot.
Park's Tuesday speech focused on a three-year plan for South Korea's economy, which she said will benefit from reunifying with the North.
Long ago, before Korea, she said, Germany reunified by preparing step by step.
But many analysts point out East Germany's income was only a few times smaller than West Germany's when they reunified. By contrast, South Koreans' incomes are 18 times that of North Koreans' and the South's Gross National Income (GNI) is 38 times larger than the North's.
South Korea's Finance Ministry last year estimated reunification could cost up to seven percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for a decade.
That would amount to a total cost of close to $1 trillion; other estimates are even higher.
Daniel Pinkston, Deputy Northeast Asia Director with the International Crisis Group, said South Korea also lacks a legal framework to assimilate North Korea.
"If there were change in North Korea, in whatever kind of scenario you can think about. And, we move into a situation of transitional justice or dealing with mass migrations or displaced people and so on. There are many different scenarios that we can think about. But, in those cases, we don't have a legal framework," said Pinkston.
President Park's comments come as relations are improving between the two Koreas and after a week of rare reunions of families separated since the Korean War.
The two sides this month held the highest level dialogue in seven years, where they agreed to hold the family reunions and to avoid slandering each other.
The deal was seen as a significant concession from Pyongyang, which had been threatening to call off the reunions over joint South Korea-U.S. military drills.
The drills began as scheduled, though South Korea's Defense Ministry Tuesday said a North Korean ship crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL) separating the two Koreas.
A ministry spokesman said the North Korean ship crossed into South Korean waters three times but turned back after being warned.
VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

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Comments page of 3
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
February 27, 2014 10:25 PM
I heard regular people in East Berlin could access freely to western media so that they were awared of richness of western sociey and eventually the unification of Germany was accomplished. I guess it depends on how much North Korean people could access to western intelligence whether eargerness for reunification is boosted from North side and achieved.

by: Xiao Mang
February 27, 2014 12:21 AM
I want North Korea to be freed, but Tibet more so.

by: neznaika
February 26, 2014 4:10 PM
Goodwill, incl. solidarity, mutual care, ability to put oneself in someone else's place, sincere compassion should be in the basis for promoting any kind of peaceful association.

by: Romeo Lin
February 26, 2014 8:56 AM
As far as my knowledge is concerned, the two koreans have been trying to reunify , since like forever. What will be the difference this time around?
In my opinion, there is an evil force working there and keeping the two koreans from reunification. And, what makes you think, the sick dictator in North will be interested in reunification? He and his sick followers simply don't have any incentives to even consider reunification. After all, they are eating and drinking well. And what makes you think, the dictator will ever conern about north koreans people, who are starving.

by: B. Clancy from: Seoul S.Korea
February 26, 2014 7:51 AM
I'm a Canadian whose been living in S.Korea for 6 years. I'm married to a Korean whose father was from Pyeongnam and was sent to S.Korea, to preserve the family name, during the war. He hasn't heard from his 6 sisters since. I teach Korans of all ages, the youth know and think very little about N.Korea and Unification. The 20 to say 30ish year olds are generally against it. Cost is seems to be the main reason as well as N.K is another world even though it's an hour drive or 60km from Seoul. The older generations late 40's to 80's remember their parents stories of family lost and the seniors remember lost family.

As time passes the nostalgia is forgotten in the bustle of the big city and life in Korea. Korean life is hard, it's not easy to get by, housing prices are astronomical and even renting you need 10'000's of thousands of dollars for deposit. Ours it's 25 million won and or approximately 25 thousand dollars and 1,250 a month. People will be hard pressed to pay a tax for a possible future unification, but one will likely be needed. As time passes the idea of unification will sadly lose support.

I worry when/if North Korea government eventually collapses if N.Koreans won't be happy to join China, especially in the Northern region. China will also not easily allow N.Korea to collapse. Nor will they want a US ally on their doorstop. This may cause party of N.Korea to be Annexed by China. The resource rich north I believe. Korea had a traffic history of foreign powers occupying, splitting up and meddling in it's vistory. It has over 5000 years of shared history, but 60 years of separation has taken a heavy toll.

by: Christoffer Kjeldgaard from: Danmark
February 26, 2014 6:35 AM
It is essential for the stability og the region, that Korea is reunited. However, when Kim Jung Un is probably the best leder North Korea ever had, it is unlikely that he would reunificate without being forced by the public. Without civil war, the world and especially China will not intervene. As long as China supports Kim Jung Un, the starving public will have no means to recieve supplies to start or endure civil war.

South Korea has also always been anxious Howards Norths military power. Demilitarization of the North is just as unlikely as a reunification.

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
February 26, 2014 2:43 AM
Contrary to President Park Geun-hye's goal of reunification, here in Somalia all leaders are in process to complete the strategic plan to split this very small country into eight independent sovereign republics. It seems that no one understands that the best interest for this country is to remain intact. We urgently need ten people like Park Geun-hye who help us to remain UNITED.

by: Volcifer from: unknown
February 25, 2014 10:04 PM
East germany was only controlled by communists while N. Korea is communist. This reunification cant work unless kim jung gives up his power and his military to the south

by: Agnes Maria
February 25, 2014 9:51 PM
"The drills began as scheduled, though South Korea's Defense Ministry Tuesday said a North Korean ship crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL) separating the two Koreas."

Then get rid of the line.

by: John
February 25, 2014 8:54 PM
The truth is most South Koreans don't really want unification if it means they have to financially support the North. Many people in South Korea are just getting by as it is. The violent crime rate is low in the south also. I can imagine that will increase dramatically if poor uneducated Northerners; whom are probably desensitized by the violence in the North migrate down South. The biggest losers of reunification will the average South Korean.
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