[OUTLOOK]A German lesson in reunification

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[OUTLOOK]A German lesson in reunification

The Kim Jong-il regime in North Korea can still collapse; the possession of nuclear weapons does not guarantee the survival of the regime. The former Soviet Union collapsed although it possessed 10,000 nuclear arms. Nuclear devices have nothing to do with the security of a regime. If supply does not meet demand in a system, it will collapse on its own, just as a person dies if he fasts for too long. In North Korea, supply has not met demand for three decades. Now, foreign aid will also stop due to the regime’s detonation of a nuclear device. Its nuclear weapons damage the regime, instead of enhancing its security.
The South Korean government should ready itself for the North’s collapse. In particular, presidential hopefuls who face election in 2007 should fully prepare themselves for such an outcome. The next president’s term will be from 2008 until 2013. During that time there could be a coup d’etat by a military group loyal to China, or a new regime similar to Kim’s. There are likely to be clashes between rival cliques in power, riots by the people or a civil war and a state of anarchy. The one inevitability is that North Korea will collapse. North Korean refugees will flock to the borders with China and South Korea. If handled badly, a major catastrophe will begin for both South and North Koreans.
From 1989 to 1990, when Germany was being reunified, East Germans said “If Deutschmarks do not come to us, we come for them” and 2,000 crossed the old border every day. If North Korea’s regime collapses, endless refugees will migrate unless the North receives a sufficient influx of Chinese yuan, South Korean won or U.S. dollars.
How will other countries respond after North Korea’s collapse? China, basking in the spotlight from being the hosts of the 2008 Olympic Games will claim with confidence its rights in North Korea. The United States will press for a stake as it is the party that signed a cease-fire agreement with North Korea. If the UN peace keeping forces enter North Korea, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces might come along. These countries are unlikely to acknowledge South Korea’s importance in dealing with North Korea.
In November 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, Chancellor Helmut Kohl was abroad. He rushed back to his country with a clear vision that West Germany should lead the process of reconstruction. He. declared two things. First, in regard to the survival of the German people, he rejected any interference from outside forces. Second, he declared all Germans were of the same nationality. We must learn from this, the train called reunification does not wait for the meek. We must get on now and make the same declarations as Chancellor Kohl: Korea must be one country and all Koreans deserve to be its citizens.
In 1989 Chancellor Kohl behaved like an optimistic and courageous man. To reject international interference, he went through intense negotiations. He met with then U.S. President George H. W. Bush to reassure him that Germany would remain in the U.S.-led European defense community, otherwise known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He then visited Moscow to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev. Kohl gave $1.7 billion to the Soviet Union in order to receive a promise they would withdraw their military from German territories and “permission” for a reunified Germany to remain in NATO. Persuading Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain and President Francois Mitterrand to follow his plan was difficult as well.
To achieve reunification under one nationality, at least $2 trillion was sent to East Germany over a decade. That was because West Germany would have fallen into chaos without East German stabilization. In 1990, 45 billion Deutschmarks in cash was transferred to East Germany overnight. Cargo trucks loaded with 600 tons of bills and 500 tons of coins were guided and protected by the troops. It was an unprecedented scene and a daring decision, risking a possible stock market crash.
What made the process of East Germany’s reintegration successful was money and trust from neighboring countries. The competitiveness of West Germany, its people’s cooperation in an emergency and Chancellor Kohl’s leadership were also factors.
Candidates for the next presidential election should see that the situation on the Korean Peninsula has been transformed from co-existence to the probable collapse of North Korea’s regime and reunification; all because North Korea’s Leader Kim Jong-il has proved his country is a nuclear state. South Korea will be faced with even more difficult problems than those imposed on Mr. Khol. Presidential hopefuls must be equipped with strong resolution, a vision for the future and leadership to secure people’s cooperation.

*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Chun Young-gi
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