[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Study Europe’s integration

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Study Europe’s integration

Recently, there have been rising voices asserting the need for economic and political integration in Asia. Such ideas came from the rapid growth of the Asian economy that would benefit from regional integration. However, we must learn from the recent setbacks of the European Union constitution. Political integration is qualitatively different from economic integration. Therefore Asia, especially Korea, must carefully study the history of European integration for two valuable lessons.
One lesson is the actual regional integration of Asia, and the other is applying integration methods to Korea’s unification. First, Korea must learn about regional integration from Europe’s experience. Regional integration would be beneficial for Korea since it lacks free trade agreements, and integration means freer access to markets with huge potential. Nonetheless, serious integration in Asia seems very difficult because Asian countries tend to favor getting things done quickly, judging by their experience of rapid modernization. To make matters worse, Asia has historical sentiments that are major obstacles. Therefore, we must carefully examine Europe’s case and plan a well-coordinated integration that is feasible and effective.
Second, European integration could provide a new approach on Korean unification.
As Georg Winckler, the dean of Wien University in Austria, asserted during his visit to Korea, Korea should follow the example of the European Union rather than Germany for a unification model. This is because Germany still bears the burden of paying 5 to 10 percent of its gross domestic product annually as a unification expense. Korea will have to pay more because the economic gap is wider. For this reason, Korea must not hurry but should keep increasing cooperative projects with the North such as the Gaeseong Industrial Complex. This will facilitate economic integration and could have a spillover effect to political integration.
Like the European Union in the past, Asia must be interconnected in many aspects and common interests before political integration. One possible solution Asian countries can unite on could be energy, like natural gas in Siberia, because this is what rapidly growing Asian economies desperately need.

by Kim Min
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