The people of South Korea are carefully nurturing the idea of reunification with the North. Reunification is a common theme among the exhibits at The War Memorial of Korea. It is also a recurring topic in coffee shop discussions among Korean students. Reunification is in the air and history shows that in countries once divided by international wars, reunification prevails.
Try counting how often reunification is mentioned at The War Memorial, and you’ll lose track quickly. The Statue of Two Brothers depicts North and South Korean soldiers hugging in agony. The brothers experience forgiveness and reconciliation, key ingredients of reunification. The Clock Tower of Peace counts the minutes since the Korean War began. And the plaque under the Monument for Remembrance of the Korean War longs for reunification by leaving Korea’s sons and daughters “the hope and promise
of the unification of the nation.” Reunification has been on the minds of Koreans even before the War Memorial was built in 1994.
The desire for reunification has not diminished with time. Koreans I have spoken with are cautiously optimistic about the idea of reconciliation with the North. Some feel that the more time goes by, the harder it is reconcile. But they seem anxious to share the economic success of the South with their Northern brothers and sisters. Reunification is definitely on the minds of people today. The topic came up more than once in my few days here in Seoul.
One student I spoke with wondered how Germany handled the economic disparity of reunification. I answered that it was a huge success, and Germany is now an economic cornerstone of Europe. A bit of research shows that I may have over simplified things a bit, but 20 years later most agree that German reunification was a success.
Reunification is a matter of national pride in Vietnam. You can sense that pride with a visit to the Reunification Palace in Saigon.
Reunification has been good for Vietnam. An effort to privatize inefficient state run organizations has lead to economic success this century. Freedom of the press has prospered in Vietnam, with criticisms of those state organizations helping pave the way to open markets.
The number of the defectors from North Korea to South Korea increases every year. Recent cries for help from the leadership of North Korea signal the situation there is growing worse. The Ministry of Unification is already in place handling the problems associated with nationalizing North Korean refugees. While the Berlin Wall seemed to collapse overnight, it was really just a natural outcome that had been actualizing over time. Likewise, Korean reunification is an inevitability whose time has come.