Hanna’s Harangues: Not Yet Ready for Reunion

Korean reunification will only emphasize many imbalances.

Hanna Kang, Editorial Editor

The very minute the corpulent North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un vanished into thin air and remained invisible for the duration of a month, the silent but brutal regime once again became the hot topic of the media. Cautious speculations about his failing health escalated to implausible theories about his grip on power. And when Kim made his first public appearance after his brief hiatus, the cameras snapped away, eager to capture the moment.
But are any of these people as restless to take a good look at the pressing situation in North Korea as they are to land a photo or two of the unattractive iron-fisted ruler? My best guess is absolutely not.

In South Korea and Korean communities in the United States, various events are held throughout the year to commemorate the end of the Korean War and to raise the issue of the divide between the North and the South, usually with a theme somewhere along the lines of “Toward Reunification!” Stories of separated and reunited old couples are told amid heavy silence and the occasional suppressed sob of a distraught elderly woman. These events do not address the numerous obstacles that come with reunification but only serve to unite Koreans—for a short while at that—in pushing forth with an ill-considered cause.

To be brutally honest, the byproduct of the reunification of North and South Korea would be a disaster itself. Sixty-one years have passed since the 38th parallel was created by the Korean Armistice Agreement at the end of the Korean War, and the passing of each year increases the gap between the two in every aspect possible.

In the North, there is no freedom of press or Internet access. There is no freedom of religion, and members of the diminishing Christian community live in fear, not knowing when government officials will barge into their underground church and have them executed. Unless they take the means to educate themselves, South Koreans will never know of the unspeakable atrocities committed against their North Korean neighbors. Reunification will only emphasize the social, political, economic and religious rifts that separate the two sides.

A financial dilemma will also emerge if reunification was to occur. According to a recent study from the Korean Institute of Public Finance, the national income of the South is 17 times higher than that of the North, and more than eight percent of a reunified Korea’s GDP would have to be spent to provide South Koreans’ standard of minimum social welfare to North Koreans. Experts say Korean reunification will cost 2.5 times more than what the Germans have spent, easily exceeding $3 trillion. Assuming that this cannot be achieved, an extreme disparity between the rich and poor would exist in a reunified Korea.

Prolonging reunification will lengthen the suffering of the North Korean people, but, as of now, there are no possible strategies to approach the much-disputed consolidation without blunder.