Ideas of the Korean Unification: Can They Learn
From Germany’s Experience?
The idea of this paper is to compare and contrast German Unification process with the
outlook for possible scenarios in Korea. By looking at the similarities and differences between
the situation in Germany and Korea. To do this I look at the state of the economies,
recommendations toward policy, the need for international support as well as possibilities on
how to organize the transition. If the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic
of Korea are to merge as one united country, several factors will need to be taken into question.
I hope to bring light on what it might take in order for this to happen.
With the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the East-West confrontation, new
challenges demand political management in order that the emergence of new aggravations and
tensions be avoided. Divided countries such as Germany and Korea were the epitome of the
cold war era with its acute ideological divisions. German unification in 1989 was one of the
central events of the process sealing the end of the cold war. Since then, Germany has
undergone a process characterized by positive, but especially also an array of negative
experiences. A series of mistakes was committed during and after the German unification
process that caused avoidable pain and has lasting consequences which may not be overcome for
decades. The German experience may hold some lessons for other countries. The Korean
peninsula, for one, is still mired in a conflict which reflects the harsh ideological divide, uneven
economic development and the build-up of menacing military forces, including nuclear
Can Korean standoff and confrontation continue? Will the break-up of the Soviet Union, the
disappearance of its Communist Party, the ensuing policies towards the market economy, the
economic reforms in China and new diplomatic alignments in the region trigger Korean
unification? What are the lessons from the German experience? I will attempt to shed light on
the these and numerous other issues associated with the Korean unification process.
Germany and Korea Similarities and Differences for Unification
While the unification of Germany was treated as a national issue, it actually has and will
continue to have considerable international implications. Germany grew overnight from a
country of some sixty million people to a nation of eighty million. Germany today is one and
half times the size of Britain, France or Italy.(Dept. Of State and Foreign Affairs) Although today
Germany has enormous economic problems which will remain for at least the next 10 years, all
of Germany’s neighbors believe that in the end Germany will come out on top economically.
German unification has demonstrated that the re-establishment of the unity of a country even
after a long period of division and difficulties is possible and that unification can be achieved in
a democratic, peaceful way. But despite similarities between the two cases, there may also be
many differences regarding internal and external aspects.
Germany and Korea were both divided in the wake of World War II against the
background of rivalry between capitalist West and the communist East. In both countries, the
hope for reunification was slim during the Cold War period. Unlike Germany, North and South
Korea had fought a ferocious war. The two Germanys, unlike the two Koreas, concluded a
system of treaties to regularize relations at the official level and to secure a modicum of civil
contacts and communications among the people. On the Korean peninsula, North Korea
remains to this very day a hermetically closed society. No information flows uncontrolled into
the country, access to foreign radio and television broadcasts is non-existent and no contact is
permitted with the outside world, not even the exchange of letters. Travel both inside the
country and abroad is subject to approval and regulation. Apart from the country’s leaders and
nomenklatura, all other North Koreans are unaware of developments in the world in general and
the social and economic conditions in South Korea in particular. This constellation is likely to
make any unification process in Korea fraught with the risks of political and social instability.
There are also significant differences in the economic constellation between Germany
and Korea. The population ratio between East and West Germany was 1:4, while for North and
South Korea this ratio stands at 1:2. In 1997, North Korea is believed to have experienced an
economic decline of 3.7% and in 1998 of 5.2%. South Korea has continued to achieve rapid