Twenty years ago the two halves of Germany became one with the collapse of Communist East Germany.
Opinions even today are devided as to its success.
South Korea's Lee Myung bek's government has agreed with Angela Merkel's Germany to set up a group of experts on Germany serving as a possible model for reunifying the Korean peninsula.
Seoul may be looking for German 'insight' and 'practice' in birthing into reality a united Korea.
Now, this new step runs contrary to South Korea's former reaction towards German reunification. Then, the financial cost, the social dislocation, the problems of stabilising and integrating two unequal Germanies with two different economic systems, the rush for gold in employment and social benefits in the former West Germany dismayed them, so on and on. For South Korea, the outlay of capital and the social costs disallowed any thought of reunification other than the existential decades old desire of one Korea.
For any quick fix would submerge and overwhelm the thriving Asian tiger that is South Korea, the 12 largest economy in the world. Although Seoul would have the economic, intellectual, and perhaps moral advantage over Pyongyang, reunification spelt disaster.
Cut off from aid and comfort by a dissolved Soviet Union, North Korea weathered impoverishment of its citizens,, floods, famine, and general economic ill health. Faced with forces beyond its own economic well being, South Korea wisely put the idea on the back burner. And the Korean war re enforced all prexisting conditions relations between the North and South. Dirty tricks, a war of propaganda, and an occasional outburst of arms took over an easing of tensions.
With the election of Kim Dae Jung, a 'sunshine policy' took the shape of policy. It proved the 'right' policy of the time and tensions between North and South lessened appreciably. It won the Nobel prize for peace for Mr. Kim.
The 'Sunshine Policy' began melting hostilities. Recognizing the unequal economic development between North and South, Mr. Kim and his successor Roh Moo hyun eased relations with money, food, and investments. Not only that, families long divided since the Korean War began seeing one another through carefully arranged meetings.
In 2008, Lee Myung bek's conservative slate won power. One of Mr. Lee's first acts was to kill the 'Sunshine Policy'. Not only that, he discouraged contacts with the North, sharply downgraded aid and investment. He froze relations, thereby reconstituting a cold war with the North.
Things reached rock bottom with the sinking of the South's courvette 'Cheonan' resulting in the death of 46 crew. South Korea and the US immediately blamed North Korea for torpedoing the ship, in spite of the holes in the evidence.
[GuamDiary has long discussed the tack Washington and Seoul took to bell the North Korean cat. On the whole, their strategy failed. We encourage our readers to read older postings dealing with the 'Cheonon'.]
Failure now pushed the South to take up North Korea's invitation to reduce tensions: one, renewing military contacts at the 38 parallel to discuss the sunken 'Cheonan' and other issues left hanging for more than a year; two, beginning again reunions of divided families; and three, a general call to easing hardened positions.
The South agreed with bad grace, and with the thought of dragging its feet on issues.
So, why the 'urgency' to look for lessons from Germany on the modality of reunification?
The answer is not difficult. The poor health of Kim Jong il and the naming of his youngest son Kim Jong eun as his possible successor have breathed hope in the thought that North Korea will collapse from its own weakness and weight. In addition, US and South Korean government experts have elaborated a strategy to 'rollback' North Korea on political and military fronts. GuamDiary has discussed this. Suffice to say, a return to a 60 year old policy simply examplifies the bankruptcy of Seoul's and Washington's position.
Perhaps they believe in the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs, they can huff and puff and blow the North Korean house down. And this very well may be the driving idea behind the Lee Myung bek's government desire to learn from Germany's reunification. It forgets that despite parallels, the differences between the two countries' division are extreme.
Wishing ain't going to make Mr. Lee's wishes come true!