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Stronger Together?The importance of discussing Korean reunification in 2017
Kim Min-sung  |  mins0308@yonsei.ac.kr
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승인 2017.03.09  00:01:24
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“REUNIFICATION OF the Korean Peninsula will be historic in that it involves bringing together a wealthy nation and a developing nation as one. If Korea can put forth a viable solution through its cultural and social innovations, it will become a model for the whole world,” said John Feffer, a renowned author on international relations. Likewise, there is now a strong need to open the debate on Korean reunification especially because world “superpowers” are losing balance globally. In other words, there is potential for South Korea to become a more influential country. Also, as the Korean presidential election is set to take place within a few months, public discussion of the topic could shed light on the future of the two Koreas.

 

   Globalization is a liberal ideal that unifies world citizens of different cultures, religions, ethnicities, and genders. The idea of globalization rose during the 20th century, especially with the numerous Free Trade Agreements (FTA) made between countries. However, globalization began to phase down in the 21st century with increasing international conflicts, such as the Syrian refugee crisis. In short, countries have started to limit interactions with other countries.

   The most immediate example of a country cutting down on its global involvement is of the United States under President Donald Trump. Trump recently pulled the country out of the most important trade deal in its recent history- the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP implicitly aimed to lessen the influence of China. The TPP would have achieved this by excluding China from the trade deal, inviting other active Asian countries as trade partners to the United States. Furthermore, the United States could make a profit from the potential benefits of the TPP which include lower prices of agricultural goods and labor, as well as strong political ties. Thus, by giving up on the TPP, the United States consequently gives up scope for greater influence in East Asia. Similarly, Europe is in a state of crisis due to the recent Brexit, threatening the stability of the European Union (EU).

China has also recently started to slow down its diplomatic progress. In the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Chinese president Xi Jinping was applauded not for China’s outstanding economic feats, but rather for China’s maintenance of the status quo. China’s economic standstill shone only because it stood in contrast with the decline of the United States and of European countries including the United Kingdom.

   South Korea should not fall into the same global trend of rejecting globalism. Instead, it should seize the opportunity to gain a greater amount of influence in Asia, and in turn- the world. The country can engage in establishing new trade deals and political alliances with other countries - Singapore and Malaysia, to name a few. However, the effect of these trade deals is not set in stone and cannot guarantee all of the country’s plans. On the other hand, the reunification of the two Koreas would be able to bring huge economic benefits to both countries. In the cases of Germany and Vietnam, their past unifications resulted in long term benefits. There were, of course, short term negative impacts, such as the drainage of capital transfers from the urbanized country to the less-urbanized. However, the long-term benefits outweighed the costs with a vastly increased labor force, and a bigger land that increased the national production.

   Regardless of whether the country decides to pursue reunification actively, the simple discussion of Korean reunification in South Korea is necessary, especially since there is a gaping hole in the political activities of the United States, China, and key European powers. Discussion over reunification will also help the latest generation of South Korea understand the various possibilities the nation may be headed in. Many South Korean citizens, especially young people, are indifferent on the topic of reunification. South Korean scandals and crises from 2016 are still the hot issue. Even though South Korea is full of political turmoil, postponing the debate over reunification could mean a missed opportunity for vigorous economic expansion.

 

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