Tigers and Bears: Saying the Unthinkable about Unification
Any plan for Korean unification immediately encounters innumerable intractable problems: What will happen to the North's secret police, prison guards and informers? Should a North Korean medical licence be accorded the same validity as a Southern one? Should we keep the Kim statues or tear them down? How are North Koreans likely to vote in elections? More
The prospect of Korean reunification tends to be discussed in extremely vague terms. Partly this is because we simply have very little idea how such a possibility would play out, partly it is because any tactless slip of the tongue on the subject is liable to result in an insult-laden tirade from North of the DMZ, if not an actual refusal to cooperate – for a brief period at least – on joint projects.
The particular bugbear of the Juche government is “reunification by absorption”, the bland euphemism used to denote a Southern takeover. However, while such a path to unification would not doubt irk the authorities in Beijing almost as much as those in Pyongyang (and is thus unlikely to happen any time soon) it is still a more convincing scenario than the rosy image of a federated Korea modeled on the German reunification experience.
In fact, any plan for reunification immediately encounters innumerable intractable problems. The principal issues are already well-known: the inevitable flood of refugees towards the Chinese and South Korean borders, the cost of reunification, the problems integrating the economic systems of the two countries... However, there are also numerous smaller and less-obvious issues that will nevertheless provide some serious headaches for the authorities in any unified Korea. What will happen to the North's secret police, prison guards and informers? Should a North Korean medical licence be accorded the same validity as a Southern one? Should we keep the Kim statues or tear them down? How are North Koreans likely to vote in elections?
In this series, Dr. Andrei Lankov faces problems both big and small head on; with none of the politically correct sidestepping that tends to characterise the debate, but with all of his trademark dry humour.
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