Thursday, March 01, 2007

Unification of Koreas compared to Germany

Excerpts of a commentary by Moon Gab-sik, an editorial writer of the Chosun Ilbo, comparing the unification of Germnay with the Koreas:

The number of North Korean defectors living in South Korea has exceeded 10,000. Fewer than 10 defectors came to the South every year until the mid-1990s, but since 1999 the number has increased exponentially at intervals of two to three years.

Some predictions say the number will double in five years. If the situation continues at this speed, South Korea will face a "German-style" re-unification. Germany was suddenly reunified after East German defectors to the West numbered some 3,000 a day.

But the Korean situation is different from the German case in one major respect. The more East German defectors there were, the more warmly the West Germans welcomed them. In our case, the greater the number of North Korean defectors, the greater our indifference.

Experts say that the "generation gap" between young and old in South Korea can also be found in North Korean defectors. While most defectors of the past came south because they were starving, experts say, nowadays many North Korean defectors are coming because they want to buy mobile phones and cars and get rich. According to statistics, 65 percent of North Korean refugees in South Korea are in their 20s and 30s.

So are the young defectors finding jobs and making money more quickly than their seniors? According to the experts, defectors taste much more failure than success.

"Hanawon" in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province is a "school" where North Korean defectors are taught about capitalism, 100 people at a time. After the vocational training, the refugees are divided into two groups -- employed and unemployed. As of last June, only 12 percent of 2,449 defectors who had used the Labor Ministry's Korea Work Information Center had found jobs.

About 28 percent remain jobless. Considering these circumstances, what would it be like if Korea was reunited and North Koreans rushed south? The labor market would likely be divided into a new Korean-style caste system, with regular workers at the top of the hierarchy, followed by non-regular workers, North Korean defectors, alien workers, and North Korean residents. It's important to note that Germany has yet to narrow the many gaps between the former East and West.

No comments: