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PREPARATION FOR REUNIFICATION OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA:

LESSONS OF GERMAN REUNIFICATION

Diana Kim
Dr. Ellington
POL 480
December 4, 2015

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PREPARATION FOR REUNIFICATION OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA:
LESSONS OF GERMAN REUNIFICATION
Introduction
On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and it became a symbol of the German
reunification (Engel 2009, 6). Anatoly Chernyaev, an advisor of Gorbachev, wrote in his diary
that the fall of the Berlin Wall signified the end of the socialist system (Savranskaya, Blanton,
and Zubok 2010, 586). The fact that Germany was divided into two governments, which each
had Democracy and Communism has similarities with the Korean peninsula. After World War II,
the Korean peninsula was divided into North and South similar to Germany. On 1945, the United
States, the Soviet Union, China, and Britain met at the Moscow Conference to agree on
trusteeship on the Korean peninsula (Seth 2010, 312). The trusteeship was planned for four or
five years (Seth 2010, 312). However, unlike Germany which was unified in 1990, the Korean
peninsula still remains separated as two states. In South Korea, German reunification can be used
as a model to study how the Korean peninsula can be unified peacefully with fewer challenges to
solve (B. Kim 2014, 121). Throughout this paper, German reunification and potential Korean
reunification will be compared and contrasted in order to find what South Koreans could prepare
to establish a unified Korea peacefully.
The North Korean government claimed its presence on September 9, 1948, after South
Korea proclaimed the establishment of its government in the same year (Laneknov 2005, 7). In
1950, North Korea invaded South Korea attempting to unify Korea under Communism. However,
this agenda did not succeed as the Korean War came to a ceasefire in 1953 (Y. Lee 2002, 30).
This lead to two governments on the Korean peninsula for almost seventy years since 1948.
Since the Korean War has never officially ended, traveling across the border has not been

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allowed for South Koreans or North Koreans unless they are approved by the government. This
disconnection between two Koreas has created more gaps in their political systems, economies,
and cultural values. It also changed the working generations in South Korea. People who
experienced the war and the separation with their family have become elders in the society. Due
to family ties they left in North Korea, the elders tend to show stronger desires for reunification
(Macris 2012, 49). However, the younger generation of South Korean society resulted in the
youth wishing for a permanent separation of two Koreas rather than reunification (Macris 2012,
49). The change in the view of reunification came from the fear or costs they need to bear
including economic costs (Macris 2012, 50). With the South Korea government continue aiming
for the creation of the unified Korea, security, finance, national identity, and international
relations will be examined to explain how Korean reunification can benefit South Korea and to
suggest what South Koreans could prepare to reduce the reunification cost.
Security
Once Korea would be unified, South Korea would no longer worry about threats from
North Korea. Currently, national security is the most critical issue between North and South
Korea, and it remains as one of the major issues to overcome to avoid physical conflict during
reunification process (Gijeong Kim 2004, 46). The security dilemma, which is the continuous
struggle between to maintain national security and to avoid delivering any further threats on the
other side, has existed in the Korean peninsula (S. Kang 2011, 3). South Korea has maintained its
military alliance with the United States to deter North Korea. As a part of military practice, South
Korea and the United States have operated military simulation called Team Spirit which is done
near the border (Wit et al. 2004, 11). South Koreas a military alliance with the United States
could put pressure on North Koreas national security (Wit et al. 2004, 11). Conversely, North

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Korea has reminded South Korea of its military capability through various incidents such as the
North Koreas nuclear test in 2006, the Cheon-an Ship1 attack in 2010, the bombardment of
Yeonpyeong in 2010, and the landmine incident in 2015 (North Koreas Nuclear Test 2015;
North Korean Torpedo 2010; Powell 2010; Choe 2015). These attacks increased security alert
in South Korea. The influence of insecurity can be found through the outcomes of public surveys.
In 2005, fifty-seven percent of South Koreans who answered the survey said that there is little or
no chance of North Korea posing a security threat on South Korea (The Institute for Peace
Affairs 2006, 34). On the contrary, seventy-nine percent of people answered in 2011 that there is
a threat from North Korea that needs to be stopped through diplomatic means (The Institute for
Peace Affairs 2011, 26). As the security issue rose, it led to fewer people wishing for
reunification. In 2005, eighty-four percent agreed that reunification should happen, but the public
support for reunification was reduced to sixty-one percent in 2011 (The Institute for Peace
Affairs 2006, 37; 2011, 27). Increase in the insecurity of South Koreans and support for
reunification show correlation, which signifies that national security is a factor that impacts
public support of Korean reunification. This shows that the security issue is influencing public
opinion on reunification.
Continuous security dilemma between North Korea and South Korea leaves a possibility
to resume the Korean War. In order to reduce the military tension between two states, both
President Daejung Kim in 2000 and President Geunhye Park in 2013 expressed their hope to
build a peace park on the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) during their addresses (J. Kim 2015, 556).
1

For the names, article title, or journal name in Korean, transliteration was done through using the rules published
by National Institute of Korean Language. For Korean names, the first name would come first and then family name
in order to eliminate confusion. In addition, their spelling might be different with other sources since all the name in
this paper is done according to the rules published by National Institute of Korean Language. The dash sign would
be used in order to clarify the sound of the word if necessary. For bibliography, the authors names are written same
as they were printed regardless whether it followed the rules by National Institute of Korean Language or not.
(National Institute of Korean Language n.d.)

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However, there was no advance in the progress to make this plan come true. There are several
factors that impacted the progress of building the peace park on the DMZ. One of the reasons is
that there are too many hidden landmines that need to be removed in order to build the park. The
rough estimation of an amount of landmines and explosive elements left in the DMZ are about
two to four million, which makes the DMZ one of the most heavily mined areas in the world (J.
Kim 2015, 563).
Finance
Besides building a Peace Park, the South Korean government has also attempted to build
a good relationship with North Korea through economic relationships, which could resolve some
of the security tension. Finance is what the younger generation of South Korea worries about and
is what Germany struggled the most (Macris 2012, 50; B. Kim 2014, 122). On November 2,
1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and the united government appeared on October 3, 1990 (Niven and
Thomaneck 2000, 68). The rapid reunification of Germany caused West Germany basically to
absorbed East Germany causing West Germans to fill the economic gap of the unified Germany
(B. Kim 2014, 122).
In 1991, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita for East Germany was about 9,000
euro while it was almost 22,000 euro for West Germany (Germanys Reunification 25 Years on.
2015). In other words, East Germany had forty-percent of West Germanys GDP per capita. In
2014, according to an article on The Economist, Eastern Germanys GDP per head is still only
67% of that in western German (Germanys Reunification 25 Years on. 2015). In 2013, North
Korea had $1,800 for its GDP per capita, and South Korea had $32,400 the same year (World
Fact Book: North Korea 2015; World Fact Book: South Korea 2015). The difference in GDP
per capita between North and South Korea is larger than what Germany had before its

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reunification. Since Germany is still struggling to equalize the economic gap between West and
East Germany, reducing the financial gap between South Korea and North Korea seems to be a
big issue to be resolved. In 2012, the Korean reunification cost was estimated to surpass two
trillion dollars (Macris 2012, 50).
When Helmut Schmit visited South Korea in 1993, in his speech, he mentioned that the
economic cost for German reunification was greater because of the rapid reunification and
recommended gradual preparation for Korean reunification (B. Kim 2014, 126). As German
reunification was a sudden event, it is unclear when Korean reunification would occur. However,
the South Korean government has attempted to help North Korea with its economic hardships
through Sunshine Policy and Kaeseong Industrial Complex project.
In 1988, President Daejung Kim began a diplomatic policy named Sunshine Policy
which included sending financial aid for North Koreas famine hoping in return to have softened
the atmosphere between two Koreas (Levin and Han 2002, 23-24). This policy began with the
help of Juyeong Jeong, the founder of Hyundai, crossing the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to North
Korea with five hundred garlanded oxen for the first time in South Korean history (H. Kim 2012).
Opening its door through Sunshine Policy, the South Korean government took its next step
through Kaesong Industrial Complex. The Kaesong Industrial Complex was built in North Korea
close to the DMZ in 2004 (Lee 2013, 8) The Kaesong Industrial Complex contains 123 mediumsized South Korean companies that hired more than 50,000 North Koreans to work at factories as
of 2012 (Lee 2013, 6).The South Korean government may use this complex to introduce a
market economy to the North as well as financially empowering North Koreans after
reunification. In fact, it is estimated that North Korea lost about $80 million in annual wages paid
by closing down the Kaesong Industrial Complex for political reasons (Fitzpatrick 2013, 11).

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Similar to the Germany case, South Korea is expected to support North Korea after
reunification if the unified Korea selects market economy. In fact, South Koreans perceive that
South Koreas economic capacity as the least unprepared area for reunification compared to
another field such as government policies according to a survey which was taken in 2012
(Guryun Kim and H. Kim 2012, 25). In the survey, South Koreans who responded that they are
willing to contribute between 20,000 won [about $20] and 100,000 won [about $100] per month
for reunification cost increased from twenty-five percent in 2010 to thirty-three percent in 2013
(Hyundai Economy Research Institute 2013, 4). Only twenty-seven percent answered that they
do not wish to take a part in financial support for reunification (Hyundai Economy Research
Institute 2013, 4). This shows that although the current economic actors do not have a close
relationship with North Koreans as much as their parents do, they are still willing to support
Korean reunification. To increase the financial support of reunification from South Koreans,
Uncheol Yang, the senior research at the Sejong Research Center, suggests considering the
reunification cost as an investment for future benefits instead of an opportunity cost that South
Korea is giving away (Yang 2011, 52).
The comprehensive Economic Integration Agreement is an economic treaty developed
by scholars based on the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement which was signed in 1991 (M. Kang et al.
2014, 278). The Economic Integration Agreement defines the relationship of two governments as
in the process for reunification (M. Kang et al. 2014, 278). The purpose for this agreement is to
pursue slow and gradual integration between two economic systems so that it can reduce the gap.
Free trade between North Korea and South Korea would be included in this agreement (M. Kang
et al. 2014, 280). Unlike overall gradual economic preparation, scholars recommend a fast shift
in North Koreas marketization by allowing unlimited investment for North Korean companies

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(M. Kang et al. 2014, 281). Although the Sunshine Policy had significant achievement which
began the economic relationship between North and South Korea, there is also a criticism that
the Sunshine Policy hindered North Korea to open its door to the international community (S.
Kim 2009, 149). Thus, the South Korean government also has a responsibility to evaluate its
policy not to prevent North Koreas internationalization. If the South Korean government could
implement these suggestions into its policies, it would be helpful to reduce the burden of
economic hardship in the future.
National Identity
Before reunification, West Germany kept a close relationship with East Germany, and
the time for the separation was shorter than Korea. Even with this close relationship, Germany
experienced a social identity struggle after reunification (D. Kim and Oh 2001, 284). Due to
rapid reunification, Germany was unprepared for this identity change (D. Kim and Oh 2011, 284).
From the German reunification, North and South Korea could draw an implication that social
reunification is as important as political, economic, and ideological reunification to build a stable
unified state (D. Kim and Oh 2001, 284). As separation gets longer between North Korea and
South Korea, there are more differences in ideologies, values, and beliefs. In fact, seventy-four
percent of South Koreans think that the social conflicts will worsen after reunification (J. Park et
al. 2014, 30). For a complete reunification these differences in ideologies, values, and beliefs
should be addressed so that people can understand each other and respect the differences.
The first step to building a social unity between North Koreans and South Koreans is to
create a brotherhood or sisterhood amongst its people. However, the result of South Koreans
view on North Koreans in South Korea is not that pleasing. Almost half of South Koreans
consider North Koreans as an enemy which should be defeated for national security rather part of

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the same nation (Han et al. 2005, 193). Seeing North Korea as an enemy rather than a family
could hinder social reunification, since South Koreans would have difficulty changing their
concept on North Koreans and accepting them as a part of the society (Han et al. 2005, 193).
To evaluate how much South Koreans can accept North Koreans, several scholars have
studied the acceptance level of North Koreans by South Koreans through North Korean refugees
in South Korea. Each year more North Koreans have entered South Korea, however, it seems
that the social acceptance has not been improved. The number of North Korean refugees who
came to South Korea is 13,418 between 2009 and 2011, which is fifty-seven percent of total
refugees since 1990 (Jung and Song 2012, 234). In 2011, forty-five percent of South Koreans
answered that they do not mind working with North Koreans in a company, and twenty-three
percent responded that they are willing to form a family with a spouse from North Korea (Jung
and Song 2012, 234). Compared to the answers in 2007 which was fifty percent and twentyseven percent, respectively, there is a slight improvement, but it still is not fast enough to
welcome North Koreans into the society. This shows that South Koreans are not willing to form a
primary relationship with North Koreans. According to North Korea refugees in South Korea,
they have difficulty adjusting to the society and feel the discrimination within the society (D.
Kim and Oh 2001, 267). Although forty-nine percent of South Koreans agree that the issue with
discrimination against North Koreans should be solved for reunification, it still remains a great
problem (Park et al. 2014, 63). To prevent inequality between South Koreans and North Koreas
after reunification, the issue of acceptance should be addressed more with the solutions.
One of the reasons why South Koreans see North Korea as an enemy is because the mass
media in South Korea tend to focus on one topic. Seventy-nine percent of South Koreans gains
their information on North Korea from the mass media such as television, radio, and newspapers;

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therefore, the role mass media is important in South Korea, and it should be monitored not to be
biased on selecting news topics on North Korea (Park et al. 2014, 47). Comparing different mass
media in South Korea, they tend to cover macro topics such as South Korean policies, North
Koreas nuclear program, South-North Dialogue, and International Relations rather than the
detailed progress of reunification or daily lives of North Koreans (H. Lee et al. 2015, 241). In
addition, people should be aware that mass media contains opinion, not just facts (H. Lee et al.
2015, 223). Each newspaper or news channels contain their own political stand, which could be
reflected on their news coverage facts (H. Lee et al. 2015, 223). Although it is audiences
responsibility to be aware the fact that any mass media could be biased, the press and broadcast
should put effort to cover various topics on North Korea on the news with neutral stands.
Cultural exchange, where South Koreans and North Koreans share their cultures through
arts or communications, is another option that is frequently discussed. In the case study of
German reunification, it can be noted that West Germany opened the door for cultural exchange
by building a highway between Hamburg and Berlin, increasing freedom for tourism, improving
mail and communication system (Choi 2014, 292). This can be applied to Korea as well.
Currently, South Koreans are prohibited from visiting North Korea, except when there is tourism
group going to the Mount Geumkang. However, this tourism opportunity is very limited and
uncertain due to security reasons. If both governments can compromise to increase this tourism
opportunity, it will benefit people to feel intimacy with each other. Improving mail and
communication system will be an option to be considered since there is no communication
system opened to public yet. In addition, cultural exchange could take place through unified
Korean team for the Olympics or inviting art performance teams. In fact, North Korean and
South Korean athletes participated in the 2008 Olympic in Beijing as one team and used

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reunification flag to represent the whole Korea (Onishi 2005). The more cultural exchange would
reduce the gap of cultural differences between North and South Korea, which is helpful to feel
intimacy between North Koreans and South Koreans and feel the sense of belonging under one
nation.
Education has suggested as a solution to support social integration. The need for
education could be addressed from the fact that only fifty-six percent of students in 2014 believe
that reunification must happen compared to sixty-six percent in 2004 (Chung and Kang 2015,
145). These results imply that public support from the younger generation on Korean
reunification has decreased in ten years. This issue would continue as newer generation appears
in South Korea.
The effectiveness of education can be represented by the difference in public support on
Korean reunification between scholars and non-scholars. Compared to non-scholars whom
seventy-eight percent answered that reunification is necessary for 2013, ninety-eight percent of
scholars addressed the need for reunification (Hyundai Economy Research Institute 2013, 2).
Scholars are also willing to make the financial contribution for reunification. When the range
between 20,000 won [about twenty US dollars] to 100,000 won [ about a hundred US dollars]
per year scored the highest with thirty-three percent of public opinion, forty-three percent of
scholars preferred between 110,000 won [about hundred-and-ten US dollars] and 500,000 won
[about five-hundred US dollars] (Hyundai Economy Research Institute 2013, 4). The amount of
contribution may not be enough to cover the estimated cost, which is over two trillion dollars
(Macris 2012, 50). However, by observing willingness to make a financial contribution for
Korean reunification, it can be noted that scholars show higher interest in participation of
preparing Korean reunification than non-scholars.

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Currently, Schools in South Korea are encouraged to teach the students on Korean
reunification, and there is a clear goal and objectives of education on Korean reunification;
however, there has been a continuous discussion on the content of curriculum and how this
subject should be approached among many scholars (S. Park and C. Park 2015, 130). The main
goal would be to understand the justification of the unified Korea, democratic values in
reunification process, and ability to think critically regarding reunification issues (S. Park and C.
Park 2015, 130). In 2013, President Geunhye Park used the word Daebak [jackpot] to describe
the Korean reunification (Gibong Kim 2014, 280). This signifies that the reunification is not just
a vague idea but in the process to create the most benefits. Before the sudden collapse of North
Korea, the curriculum should provide clear distinctions between two different political systems
of North and South Korea so that South Koreans should be able to think critically during the
political transition into a unified Korea.
The different political systems and economic status created a gap between South
Koreans and North Koreas. Due to the long-term separation, the South Korean youth tend to
forget that North Korea and South Korea is one nation sharing language and history (S. Park and
C. Park 2015, 142). Therefore, school curriculum should present more of the common features
between North Korea and South Korea to bring back a unity among Koreans. This could be done
by emphasizing shared culture and history through words such as one nation, one language, and
one history rather than political terms that convey the negative image of North Korea such as
nuclear weapons, war, and famine (S. Park and C. Park 2015, 133). The study of history could
bring positive image on North Korea and reunification instead of negative images formed
through publicities of current events and build a unity between South Koreans and North
Koreans.

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International Relations
So far, national security, financial capability, and social integration have been studied in
order to understand where South Korea stands in the process of reunification. These three factors
are internal factors that South Korean government should resolve. However, there are some
external factors as well. The main factor would be international relations. Since the reunification
of the Korean peninsula will not only affect North Korea and South Korea but also Northeast
Asia, it is important for the South Korean government to focus on its relationship with
neighboring states. For South Korea, when it talks about the regional issues, it will include
Russia, China, Japan, and the United States as influential actors. In addition, Russia, China, and
the United States were involved in the setting armistice of the Korean War; therefore, their
acknowledgment on the reunification of the Korean peninsula is important to gain sovereignty as
one state (B. Kim 2014, 136). Furthermore, North Koreas nuclear program is influencing all
these states in Northeast Asia (B. Kim 2014, 136). Since security issue is closely tied with
reunification, the position of other states should be taken into consideration in preparing
reunification.
Russia has been shown a positive attitude toward the Korean reunification under the
condition that it would be peaceful (Jebin and Suslina 2014, 106). Since President Putin is
interested in developing East of Russia, he desires the peaceful and stable condition to be formed
in the region (Jebin and Suslina 2014, 17). In addition, once the Korean peninsula is unified, it
will share some parts of its border with Korea. In order to respond to Russias interest, Korea as a
whole can contribute to forming Eurasia economic relationship (Jebin and Suslina 2014, 16).
Russia is against North Koreas nuclear program and is recommending North Korea to disarm its
nuclear weapons (Kwak and Joo 2014, 217). If the unified Korea guarantees the disarmament of

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existing nuclear weapons, it would bring peace to the region (Cho et al. 2013, 25).
The Chinese government worries for the sudden collapse of North Korea (Overholt 2008,
165). Since China also shares the border with North Korea, fall of the North Korean regime
would increase the number of refugees moving to China and the possibility of conflicts spilling
over to China (Overholt 2008, 165). However, there is a possibility that China would remain
silent regard Korean reunification issue if the unified Korea could bring less intervention of the
United States in the region (Kyungil Kim et al. 2014, 40-41). Although China worries about its
national security from North Koreas collapse, if China wants to create benefits from regional
relations, it would allow the Korean reunification to take place (Kyungil Kim et al. 2014, 32).
Japan could benefit economically from the reunification of the Korean peninsula. Once
reunification takes place, Korea is expected to create various opportunities for economic
activities, and Japan could participate in this growth by directly investing in Korean companies
(Kyoji, Tomohiko, and Gwan. 2014, 122). For Japan, China opening its door to other states has
threatened its economic superiority within Northeast Asia (Overholt 2008, 90). In 2005, China
received $60.6 billion of foreign direct investments while Japan only acquired $38.8 billion
(Overholt 2008, 90). In fact, China surpassed Japans economy in 2010, which China had $410
billion more for its GDP compared to Japan (Dawson and Dean 2011). In order to compete with
China, Japan would welcome the new economic opportunity created by the Korean reunification.
In addition, once unified Korea deactivates North Koreas nuclear program, Japan would enjoy
safer regional environment (Akiyama and Horio 2013, 151).
Along with other three states, the involvement of the United States in this process is
significant. Currently, the United States provides military support for South Korea, and the
United States was present for the armistice that was signed in 1953. In addition, the United States

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is deeply involved with deterring North Koreas nuclear program. Economically, no matter
whether it is incident reunification or gradual reunification, the United States would benefit from
increased trade with Korea (Norland 2014, 71). However, the United States may lose its
influence over the region once the Korean reunification takes place because it might result in
withdrawal of the United States troops in South Korea. Depending on which aspects that the
United States government values more between military intervention or economic benefits, it is
unclear whether the United States would support Korean reunification or not.
Conclusion
Throughout this paper, Korean reunification was evaluated in the aspects of security,
finance, national identity, and international relations. Security has been an issue remaining since
the Korean War has not ended yet. With North Korea introducing its nuclear capacity, insecurity
in South Korea has increased. Since the goal of reunification is not a war but peaceful integration,
potential factors for military conflicts should be eliminated during the preparation process.
Although insecurity challenges the South Korean government with its reunification policies, it
could also contribute to persuading the public why reunification of North Korea and South Korea
should take place. Once the united government is established, there would be no more separation
in the military between North and South, and the new government might be able to disarm
nuclear weapons North Korea is currently in process to acquire.
In addition security, financial burden pulls South Koreans back from supporting Korean
reunification. Using Germany case, the implication can be drawn that its economy was troubling
when West Germany absorbed East Germany, and there still is GDP gap between West and East
of Germany. In 2014, Germanys GDP per capita was $46, 200 and East Germany only enjoyed
sixty-seven percentage of total GDP per capita (World Fact Book: Germany. 2015; Germanys

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Reunification 25 Years on. 2015). but Germany nowadays is one of the wealthiest states in the
world. South Koreans should remember that discussing financial cost for reunification is not to
put an extra burden on them but preparing in advance so that they would experience less
economic hardship after the reunification. Instead of looking at costs they are paying, South
Koreans should also consider economic benefits they can create from the successful reunification.
National Identity is a relatively new aspect of reunification compared to security and
finance. However, the cultural integration has been heavily studied by many South Korean
scholars since the goal of the Korean reunification is to create a stable and peaceful reunification
rather than the emergence of two governments into one. According to public opinion surveys,
South Koreans acceptance of North Koreans seems to be problematic. The issue in isolation of
North Koreans in South Korea could be resolved through education and organizing more culture
events. Both North Koreans and South Koreans should increase their understanding of cultural
diversity and respects for the differences although they share same language and history.
Lastly, international relations should be taken into consideration. By briefly observing
other states in Northeast Asia - Russia, China, Japan - and the United States gives a positive
feedback on the Korean reunification. It also evaluates what aspects of reunification should be
thoroughly prepared. For example, all four actors worry that the reunification might cause a war
or military conflicts that affect international society. In addition, they are interested in economic
benefits they could receive from Korean reunification. By strengthening the economical
relationship with these states, the four states might increase their interest in Korean reunification.
All these aspects are equally important and should be addressed more to the public. With
more educated South Korean citizens on this issue, the South Korean government should be able
to develop its reunification policies more effective and efficient. Although North Koreans should

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put effort into this process as well, South Koreans have more opportunity to get involved,
especially for financial preparation. Whether Korean reunification would take place or not is
uncertain, and it might happen rapid similar to German reunification. However, the gradual and
thorough evaluation of reunification cost and preparation would be encouraged for an easier
transition for both North Koreans and South Korans. With more positive public support, North
Korea and South Korea could be able to lead to having a peaceful reunification.

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