&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Confusing Germany and Korea

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&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Confusing Germany and Korea

The advocates of the "sunshine" policy have always raised certain issues in relation with aid to North Korea. West Germany did help East Germany. There are implicit sentiments that secret money transfers to North Korea, which were recently revealed, should not be investigated since West Germany also clandestinely handed money over to the East.

Before unification, West Germany provided East Germany with enormous support. The aid passed to the East between 1975 and 1988 totaled 31 trillion won ($26.41 billion). The support took place through open trade.

In addition, during this period, West Germans sent 20 billion marks to their relatives in the East and 15 billion marks of parcels and gifts. West Germans also bought 10 billion marks of goods while visiting East Germany. Thus, the additional support added up to a much larger amount. The two Germanys traded goods by pegging 1 West German mark at 1 East German mark although the West German mark was three times the value of the East German mark. The West purchased imports from the East at three times the actual value, exporting goods to East Germany at one third of their price. All told, West Germany's assistance to East Germany exceeded 100 trillion won.

What is worth mentioning in West Germany's support to East Germany is that the West paid East Germany for their political prisoners handed over to the West. In 1963, Ludwig Rehlinger, vice minister of the state agency that handled East German policy and spearhead of the effort to unify Germany, secretly conveyed a bag stuffed with 180,000 marks to an East German liaison in a Berlin subway station. This was the first half of the payment of 360,000 marks for eight East German political prisoners, or 45,000 marks for each prisoner.

Erich Mende, the minister of the same agency, who took charge of the political prisoner deal, said, in retrospect, that since there was no diplomatic tie between West and East Germany, the government secretly attempted to release as many East German political prisoners as possible. The secrecy was in consideration of East Germany. West Germany's payments were strictly related to compensation to the East for human rights improvement. They were basically different from the one-sided aid to North Korea. Citing the German case to justify the murky deal between North and South Korea cannot be justified.

by Yoo Jae-sik

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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