Challenge of reunification

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Challenge of reunification

It was 20 years ago yesterday that the Berlin Wall finally came down. On Nov. 9, 1989, the beleaguered East German government opened the fortified barrier - the physical symbol of the Cold War and German division - and soon the wall was shattered by the hands of the hammer-wielding Berliners. It has been recently revealed that some communication breakdown within the East German government led to the opening of the frontier. Still, the fall of the Berlin Wall was the inevitable conclusion reached by the longing of East Germans for the freedom, rights and life on the western side of the border.

West Germany overcame chaos in the immediate aftermath of the fall and accomplished reunification a year later. Watching the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall, we are envious but also have mixed feelings. Are we prepared to deal with a quick turn of events that can happen unexpectedly? Do have what it takes - politically, economically and diplomatically - to let such sudden events guide us to reunification? Even given the differences between the Germanies from 20 years ago and the Koreas of today, there are reasons to be deeply concerned. We must learn from the Germans’ experience, including their mistakes.

Over the past 20 years, the equivalent of about 1.3 trillion euros (about 2,248 trillion won, $1.9 trillion) have been transferred from the West to rebuild the East. In other words, eight years’ worth of the Korean budget has been spent on East Germany. Despite such massive aid, the gross domestic product per capita for those in the former East Germany improved from 43 percent to only 71 percent of those on the west. North Korea’s per capita GDP is only 6 percent that of the South, making things even more difficult here.

Monetary concerns shouldn’t take away from our willingness to become one again. But to grow into a developed, unified nation, we need a new national vision and growth engines that can bring everyone together. A Goldman Sachs report said a unified Korea would exceed France, Germany and Japan in GDP within 30 to 40 years and become a G8 nation.

We are dealing with the North Korean nuclear problems, but at the same time, we must not stop working on our vision for reunification. We need a precise road map that can guide us from sudden events to gradual reunification. We need to gain support from our neighbors who’d prefer the status quo on the Korean Peninsula.

In order to do so, we need to create a new peace mechanism for Northeast Asia that includes the peninsula, and instill in others the conviction that a unified Korea will be a denuclearized, peace-loving state that will contribute to world peace and prosperity.
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