For more than six decades, the Korean nation, which shares a rich and deep cultural history that goes back for centuries have been divided into North and South Korea after a bitter conflict in 1953 terminated with no peace treaty. A concrete wall that is just south of the Military Demarcation Line extends for 240 kilometers. This barrier, much like the Berlin Wall, rends families apart and eradicates the opportunity for residents of the entire peninsula to pool their economic resources for the best quality of life imaginable. The concept of peaceful reunification has been bandied about for decades, but the success of such an endeavor is also hotly debated. Although tensions between the two nations exist, they still have much in common and casting economics as well as politics aside, nationalist fervor alone could very well provide the essential foundation for a prosperous, unified Korea. Despite public sentiment decreasing in South Korea in regards to peaceful unification, that nation’s President Park Guen Hye firmly believes reunification is the path to purse. In fact, she told Bloomburg News in March of 2014, it would allow South Korea’s economy, “take a fresh leap forward” (Donahue and Czuczka, web). Even with all the barriers that inevitably would present themselves during the reunification process, what would be best for the Korean peninsula is a united nation.
Gregory Rodriquez reinforces President Hye’s assertion the South Korean people have taken a much more negative view on reunification with their northern brethren. In his article, “South Korea’s Policy of Engagement with North Korea Is Not Working” he refers to South Korea’s treatment of the North as “the sunshine policy” but being patient and kind to the North while supplying them foodstuffs is growing less popular for many reasons including dictator Kim Jong II’s nuclear testing (Rodriguez, p3). In addition, there is his unwillingness to provide concessions for aid, which provide a tremendous security issue for South Korea and forces them to rely on U.S. guarantees of military aid in case of a strike (Rodriguez, p2). Rodriquez, however, never introduces statistical data to depict sentiment on reunification and his article is clearly quite old, as it was produced in 2008. If South Korea’s head of state is firmly committed to reunification as a boon for her country and is willing to endure the strain of working through the circumstances in order to achieve the end result, would she not be much more reliable resource as to the success in bringing North and South Korea together once again? Undoubtedly. That question’s answer is a no-brainer.
Author Bruce Bennett is also vehemently opposed to reunification as he claims the South’s economy, infrastructure and way of life will be destroyed. A policy analyst at RAND, an internationally renowned public policy research organization, Bennett likens a rejoining of North and South Korea as problematic as to what occurred in Iraq after Operation Iraqi Freedom. “The South alone cannot rebuild the North Korean economy would need billions in aid from the United States and other nations. In addition, members of North Korea’s million-man army will find themselves out ofwork, and like the soldiers of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army, may turn to insurgency” (Bennett, p1). While Bennet’s outlook on the success of reunification is bleak at best, Philip Bowring takes the approach the glass is half full rather than half empty. “That is not to suggest that it is imminent, or that there will not be huge social and political problems, given that two generations have grown up under such completely different systems. But by avoiding Germany’s mistakes, the North is a business opportunity more than an economic threat for the South. By 2020 Sinuiju may look just like Dandong, or better” (Bowring, p3). As South Korea has world’s 12th largest economy and their land is much more fertile than their northern kin, Bowring’s assessment of the economic advantages of a unified peninsula are entirely correct. Again, if the President of South Korea realizes the potential boon reunification can offer, Bennett’s reasons for remaining divided should be viewed as a worst case scenario and not the impending nightmare he imparts.
In the article “South Korea’s Policy of Engagement with North Korea Should Continue” the author Hankyoreh establishes diplomacy and an extended relationship are crucial to both countries’ continued existence. North Korea is quite isolated politically, economically and socially. Many of its people are starving while Kim Jong pursues an aggressive nuclear and military program that has nations such as China and Japan on red alert. Hankyoreh asserts relying on South Korea for aid, has tempered North Korea’s behavior in regards to its nuclear program and the key to neutralizing or diminishing the security risk that is posed, does not stem from the international community but from South Korea alone. He views reunification based on common culture and familial ties as unavoidable. Therefore, South Korea should participate in conciliatory steps to aid the process peacefully and take more responsibility for doing such. He writes, “The effort to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully and not just punish the North for its test must continue, if only for the sake of guaranteeing the survival of the Korean people. SouthKorea needs to be changing the direction of how this unfolds little by little, and not just following along” (Hankyoreh, p3).
After reviewing the literature on the political, economic and social reasons either promoting or dissenting against Korean reunification, it is readily apparent the two nations should come together as one. Sharing the same cultural values and ties of blood, the wall and Kim Song may be huge barriers to this process, but it must be pursued. Although South Korea is economically and politically stable, a united Korean peninsula, after experiencing growing pains, would occupy a significant position of power in the international hierarchy. In addition to the economic advantages of a single Korea, nationalism must also be taken into consideration. Wars have been fought for centuries over the feelings this evokes and North and South Korea are not immune to this phenomenon. Sooner or later it will occur and a path should be selected as well as adhered to by South Korea to make the transition as smooth as possible when reunification finally takes place.