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[Editorial] Preparing for unification

To avoid chaos, the South needs readiness

Feb. 26, 2014 - 19:43 By Korea Herald
Amid growing signs of improving cross-border relations, President Park Geun-hye has put forth a plan to launch a presidential committee to prepare for the reunification of Korea.

Park unveiled the plan during her announcement on Tuesday of a three-year economic innovation blueprint. It was the first time Park had referred to such an organization. She said the presidential committee would serve as a forum for exploring a “systematic and constructive” approach to unification.

She also said the panel would be used to prepare for unification and expand dialogue and private exchanges between the two Koreas.

She further said the committee would invite private experts and civic groups in the fields of diplomacy, security, economics, society and culture to collect public views on unification and map out a blueprint for a unified Korea.

There is no disputing the need for South Korea to prepare for unification. As former President Lee Myung-bak said, unification can come totally unexpectedly “like a thief in the night.” That is exactly the way Germany was reunified.

The possibility of a German-style unification occurring here has increased following the ascension of Kim Jong-un in 2012. Recently, the purging of Jang Song-thaek, Kim’s uncle, who was once seen as the eminence grise, has amplified the instability of the Pyongyang regime.

Park noted that West Germany was able to seize the unexpected opportunity for unification because it had steadily made the necessary preparations.

Park recently said that unification would be a “bonanza” not just for South Korea but for neighboring countries. But if we are not prepared for unification, it could be a disaster rather than a blessing.

As Park noted, next year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula. During this long period, the two societies have become totally different in almost all fields.

If unification takes place under these circumstances, it would create chaos. To avoid such a situation, we need to be prepared. Thus far, the South has avoided making preparations so as to avoid provoking the North. But now, we should start before it is too late. In this regard, the plan to set up a preparatory committee is welcome.

The envisioned committee can also advise the government on the advancement of inter-Korean cooperation. Following the recent family reunions, the government will soon have to make tough decisions about reopening the Mount Geumgangsan tour program and lifting the so-called May 24 sanctions, which were imposed on the North following the destruction of a South Korean Navy ship in March 2010. The committee can gather public views on these matters and make recommendations.