Korean Reunification: Promise and Perils

By Michael L. Mickler

Rev. Sun Myung Moon (True Father to Unificationists) emphasized the “providential significance” of Korean reunification. To him, unifying the Korean peninsula would be “the final act of bringing the global Cold War to a conclusion” and “the blueprint for the unification of the world.”

He also envisioned a unified Korea as a driver of global development. He taught that the peninsula will provide a platform for oceanic and continental civilizations to fuse together and develop into a new civilization, inaugurating the Pacific Rim Era.

This article attempts to connect his vision of Korean reunification with current economic, technological, transportation, cultural, and political realities.

The Promise

Economy. The most optimistic appraisal of Korea’s economic future is a 2009 Global Economics Paper, “A United Korea? Reassessing North Korea Risks,” published by global investment firm Goldman Sachs. It contends that “North Korea has strong untapped potential, which could be unleashed once meaningful economic reforms start and investment flows in.”

In particular, the study emphasizes “synergies between South Korean capital and technology, and North Korean natural resources and labor.” It points out, for example, that North Korea has large deposits of minerals valued at 140 times its GDP while South Korea “has virtually no mineral resources” and “imports 97% of the energy and mineral resources [it] uses.” Apart from natural resources, the study references North Korea’s “abundant and competitive labor force.” It notes,

  • More than one-third of North Korea’s population (37%) lives in rural areas, as was the case in South Korea in the late 1970s when it began its economic ascent;
  • The labor force could increase substantially given the current large military population (nearly 1.3 million);
  • Pre-college education is compulsory;
  • Experience from the Kaesong Industrial Complex suggests that North Korean workers have a strong work ethic and a good potential for productivity enhancement; and,
  • North Korea’s demographics are relatively young and the population is growing roughly twice as fast as in South Korea.

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