[FOUNTAIN]Pot sales start long road to unify KoreasThe Seonjuk Bridge is the most memorable landmark in Gaeseong, North Korea. Chung Mong-ju, a loyal retainer of Goryeo Dynasty, was killed on the bridge as the power of the 500-year-old capital waned. The city’s tragic history has been forgotten by many Koreans today. Blocked by the Demilitarized Zone and historically shadowed by the Joseon Dynasty, the presence of Gaeseong feels more like a myth.
When Wang Geon, the founder of Goryeo Dynasty, established the first unified kingdom on the Korean Peninsula in 918, Gaeseong was called “Songak.” Its guardian mountain according to the feng shui is Mount Songak, the mountain of pine trees and rocks.
The city of Gaeseong had been the auspicious cradle of Korea’s unification for over a millennium. At the same time, it suffered one of the most painful experiences in the tragedy of national division.
Located at the forefront, it was bombed by U.S. forces in the early days of the Korean War. From 1951 on, the city was devastated by the South by day and by the North by night.
But the war-torn forgotten capital of the ancient dynasty has returned to the spotlight as the site of the joint industrial complex. Gaeseong kitchen pots, the first product manufactured at the complex, sold briskly Thursday at a department store in Seoul.
When former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt was asked about the lessons of German unification during his visit to Seoul in the early 1990s, he said, “Unification comes suddenly. It’s expensive, so be prepared.” It was in 1951 when West and East Germany signed the Berlin Agreement, which enabled trade between the two countries. Although unification came 38 years later, the agreement must have had many unexpected effects. Since West Germany purchased East German products and invested in the country until the fall of the Berlin Wall, unification requires high costs. The price to pay after unification is even greater.
It was only three years and four months ago that the two Koreas agreed to develop a joint industrial complex in Gaeseong.
The initial construction cost of the complex was 220 billion won ($200 million). We have had a faster, cheaper start than Germany. However, the road to Gaeseong is still long.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.