This is a topic that every Korean has imagined or has dreamed of at least once in his or her life. Korea has one of the richest and oldest cultures and histories in the world, but sadly, a huge part of that history is marked by terrible warfare and numerous deaths. Since the ancient Three-Kingdom Period, Korea has had a long history of separation. In the 20th century, history repeated itself. How then should the two Koreas prepare for reunification? There are two crucial issues that need to be resolved before the two Koreas can be reunified: the issues of the economy and culture.
Let’s start with the economy. South Korea has had incredible economic growth since the 1960s. From being one of the poorest nations in the world, its economy ranks as the 12th in size in the world. Despite this incredible success, the economists have a pessimistic view about the South Korean economy’s capacity to absorb the North Korean economy. Compared to Germany, which experienced a successful reunification, economists say that the South Korean economy isn’t as strong as West Germany’s economy was. Besides, the economic gap between West and East Germany was only threefold while the economic gap between
North and South Korea is roughly fifteenfold. How then can the two Koreas close the gap between them? East Germany was the most economically successful socialist country ever, and it owed its success to the assistance extended to it by West Germany. Unlike North Korea. East Germany was very open to West Germany and showed its gratitude through its media, giving West Germany the credit for its success. South Korea has been helping North Korea in various ways, such as building a factory in the city of Gaesung or donating rice and food during the harsh droughts in North Korea, but North Korea has not conveyed its gratitude to South Korea in public through its media. North Korea needs to cooperate more with South Korea and should show its people how the latter has been helping it. Also, saving money through taxation is a good way for North Korea to prepare for reunification. North and South Korea have shared the same culture for thousands of years. Their people speak the same language, and they have the same traditions and holidays. But since their separation, both countries have absorbed the cultures of many other countries. In the history of South Korea, changes in lifestyle and culture have never occurred as rapidly as they have occurred recently, after the country’s rapid economic growth. These changes can be seen in the language, contemporary culture, ideology, etc. South Korea has borrowed words from English, French, and Japanese while North Korea has preserved the purer form of Korean. Also, the South Koreans now have a generally Westernized lifestyle, and South Korea’s entertainment sector has grown into a gigantic, world-class industry. On the other hand, North Korea is very conservative, and the entry of foreign media materials into the country is very much restricted. The difference between the ideologies and lifestyles of the two Koreas can become a huge problem in their reunification. It might be especially hard for the North and South Koreans to harmonize with each other. Historically, the Koreans closed their doors to foreigners and to people that they considered not belonging to their group. We can see this in the records of the Chosun Dynasty, where the Westerners called Korea “the hermit kingdom.” North Korea should abandon the idea of being isolated, and open the door to the world. Through talks between them, South and North Korea must realize that they aren’t really enemies but partners. Through various programs, opportunities should be given for the citizens of both sides to meet each other and exchange cultures and ideas. It would also be good if there were a TV program in which college students from both sides would debate about the issues and problems of the two countries, and about the viable solutions to these.
In conclusion, Korea is a nation full of unresolved tensions and with a history written in blood. The proof of this is that the two Koreas are currently separated. The two countries are standing pat on their respective ideologies and ways of doing things. Only through cooperation, mutual respect, and understanding can peace finally reign between them. The two Koreas need to cooperate with each other not only economically but also culturally. With the North’s resources and cheap labor and the South’s technology, the future reunified Korea has an incredible potential to become one of the most powerful countries in the world both economically and politically. I hope that when that day comes, Korea will be prepared for such challenge mentally and conomically.
(French Language and Literature, 12)