Learning from Germany’s caseRegarding the future of Germany, which was divided at the time, Deng Xiaoping said in 1984 that big waves would sweep up small rivers. When German reunification was considered a romantic hope, Deng predicted it was coming. In contrast, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl thought it would be a long-term process. He got together with Christian Democrat Bundestag member Volker Ruhe and drafted the Ten-Point Plan for German Unity in November 1989. Less than a year later on Oct. 3, 1990, the Berlin Wall fell. Deng was right.
In a speech commemorating the 25th anniversary of German reunification, hosted by the Pacific Century Institute on May 19, Volker Ruhe, who served as the defense minister from 1992 to 1998 after reunification, said the “big wave” Deng mentioned was Moscow. German reunification happened suddenly amid the European political vortex, Ruhe said. German politicians kept an open mind, believing it would happen someday, and that the Korean government should constantly “do something.”
Ruhe said Seoul needs to make an offer to the North every day, even if Pyongyang turns down talks. It is important to keep the channel of discussion open, he said. He added that investing in North Korea is actually investing in Korea as a whole.
He also stressed that the South needs to approach the inter-Korean relations from the greater Northeast Asia frame. He saw that improving the Korea-Japan relationship was important. If Europe had affirmed that Germany would not change after World War II in 1945, German reunification would not have been possible.
In order to create the “big wave” Deng mentioned, Korea should give Japan, which is often compared to Germany, a chance to change and manage and improve inter-Korean relations.
Ruhe also said to politicians: “Without bipartisan cooperation, there would be no reunification. A successful nation can be constructed only with bipartisan cooperation after the reunification.”
The faces of some 300 people in the audience, including former U.S. Ambassador to Korea Kathleen Stephens, incumbent Ambassador Mark Lippert and former Foreign Minister Gong Ro-myung, turned serious.
The captivating speech ended with a quote from former U.S. Ambassador to Korea Donald Gregg’s memoir, “Pot Shards: Fragments of a Life Lived in CIA, the White House, and the Two Koreas”: “The continued division of the Korean Peninsula is a tragedy that can and must be ended. That will only happen when mutual demonization is replaced by dialogue, allowing reconciliation to emerge.”
The author is a political and international news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 21, Page 29
by CHUN SU-JIN