[OUTLOOK]Learn the lessons from GermanyIf we truly want to accelerate unification, we need to avoid excessive emotion, passion or excitement and must not be swayed by a groundless vision or expectation, concluded the Korea-Germany symposium marking the 15th anniversary of the unification of Germany and the 60th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula. As Koreans celebrated and envied German unification, we paid close attention to the German panels, hoping to learn the secrets and strategies of their success.
Germany’s former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, one of the masterminds of Germany’s unification, emphasized the functional relation of unification and the international environment. He affirmed that the unification of Germany was made possible because it rode on the bigger wave of European integration. He recalled that in a meeting with French President Francois Mitterrand in 1989, he asked about France’s position on the unification of Germany, citing the very passive attitude of Britain.
The French president expressed his definite support for unification as long as it was pursued as a part of and within the boundary of the grand flow of European integration and Germany was faithful to the spirit and duties of the European Union. In addition, Mr. Genscher stressed that we must remember that the interests of the United States and the Soviet Union under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev coincided over the unification of Germany without much friction.
Compared with the positive relationship between the unification of Germany and the integration of Europe, the correlation between the international environment of East Asia and the Korean Peninsula contains very serious uncertainty factors. Especially, the regional heavyweights such as China and Japan seem to be more interested in focusing on reinventing their status than pursuing the ideals of a regional community, revealing signs of newly emerging nationalism.
It seems that we cannot expect a spirit of community to share prosperity among large and small countries in the region from the proud Chinese, who are enthused by the successful launch of a satellite, and the Japanese, who back Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Yasukuni Shrine visits.
The climate is so different from the atmosphere of Europe that made the unification of Germany possible 15 years ago. Despite the ever growing trade volumes between China and the United States, there are many more elements of tension in political and security matters.
On top of the instability of the regional dynamics, Mr. Genscher diagnosed that it was uncertain whether the neighbors of the Korean Peninsula indeed wanted the unification of Korea. Therefore, he strongly suggested that Korea needs to define a solid vision of a unified Korea and promote it to the international community so that all East Asian countries have no fear or skepticism. Moreover, Seoul needs to convince them by proposing how the unification of Korea is in tune with the establishment of the East Asian community and can therefore produce synergy.
Mr. Genscher added an optimistic observation that the six-party talks, which were started to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, were certainly the perfect opportunity for Seoul to reveal its essential diplomatic tactics. In this context, devising and fine-tuning long-term diplomatic strategies for unification is the most urgent and important challenge, and we also need to make the best out of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooper-ation summit, scheduled to be held in Busan in three weeks.
There are tremendous differences in both external and internal conditions between Germany, which has already been successfully unified, and Korea, which is still suffering from the tragedy of national division. Compared with the former East Germany, North Korea is a much more formidable partner. Therefore, Mr. Genscher and many other German authorities pointed out that we might bring more misunderstanding and confusion upon ourselves by trying to learn a lesson from the experience of Germany.
Furthermore, they suggested that we should keep our guard against a groundless optimism that unification would resolve all difficulties. It is advice not to give up on unification but to bide our time and wait for the lucky moment while refraining from reckless, hasty behavior, calmly drawing up a long-term strategy and enhancing the conditions for unification.
When Mr. Genscher stopped by the office of the minister of unification in 1989, he could not foresee the upcoming unification of Germany. His conclusion that the unification of Korea, too, can come unexpectedly anytime must be friendly encouragement for Koreans to never lose hope.
* The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Hong-koo