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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Korea: Time for reunification?
The leaders of North and South Korea have met for the first time since the bloody and bitter division of the Korean peninsula more than 50 years ago.
The handshake between the North's Kim Jong-il and the South's Kim Dae-jung was unprecedented and, according to most observers, a good omen for the future of relations between the two countries. But did it signal the first step down the road of eventual reunification?
Is this the beginning of the end for one of the last century's greatest tragedies? Can the bitterness of decades of war and mutual distrust be laid aside, or is any opening up likely to lead to a dangerous new instability in the North?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I hope that this will be the first step towards re-unification, but I expect it will be a long process of positioning and trade-offs. The longer that negotiations or even basic contact continues though, the more likely re-unification is to be made a concrete possibility. Korea as a single country is not unthinkable and for the citizens of each side, it's got to be well worth it.
As someone who has a mixed heritage (Indian/Chinese) of two cultures that have been traditionally at odds over various issues, I see the Korean problem as something that can be resolved, rather than a permanent fixture on the South. Koreans are known for their unity and group mentality. Koreans in the States have shown, to me at least, that they can prevail over the toughest of odds. This is yet another challenge for them, and they will prevail.
I think that North Korea will not try and change its ways. Also that they are only talking because they see it as a chance to get some more aid and money from an unaware Kim Dae Jung.
Liang Ji, Chinese in the UK, UK
It's interesting to note that the writers from UK and US think that this process can't be completed with any sort of realistic result without the help from the western "allegedly" civilised nations. Where do you think the people and governments of north and south Korea have been for the last two decades? In a vacuum?
I know that at the time of the German re-unification, both south and north Korea were watching the process and it's results of the years which followed, and analysing how it worked and how it didn't work. Why on earth do you all think the west (especially the self absorbed and self interested US) has been fully excluded from the summit? It seems fairly clear that we (the western world are only onlookers in this process. If the US doesn't get involved then maybe the money hungry pariahs won't spoil it for a change.
After over a century of constant interference from foreign governments, it is wonderful to finally see North and South Korea taking the initiative in trying to determine their own destiny for a change. If Korea had been left to its own devices from the beginning, it would most likely never have never ended up being a divided nation.
Barbara J. Vicent, USA
Reunification of the two Koreas is not going to benefit either country.
The only possible solution is to reduce arms and go for goodwill friendship.
It would be nice to say that Kim Jong il's warm attitude towards the South is legitimate, but unfortunately I feel that it is merely a ploy to get desperately needed cash from a sympathetic Kim Dae-jung's South Korea. I think that once the warm feelings from this event fade, people will see the same North Korea.
Paul Burton, UK
It seems ironic that countries separated
strive for unification, whereas many other
"nations" are headed in the opposite
direction. Quebec trying to leave Canada,
Scotland and Wales slowly moving away from England,
Eastern Europe becoming a checkerboard of new nations.
Perhaps Citizen Smith's "Freedom for Tooting" campaign
will be realised in the next decade....
The question does has to be asked: If North Korea wasn't in such economic trouble would it even be at the talks? Since the Soviet Union collapsed North Korea has obtained aid through virtual blackmail (getting aid from the US for not developing nuclear weapons and so on).
Justin Barrass, UK/South Korea
Observing this story from Japan, it appears that Japan might become the biggest player economically in the reunification of the Koreas... Is it too much to expect that Japan's past might be forgiven through her helping to reunite these two nations?
Jeremy DeWaal, USA
One correspondent asks us to recall the cost of reunification to West Germany, but we should really recall the cost to the East. A Communist country that is suddenly reunited with its free market sibling will find itself so far behind that its citizens will end up as beggars in their own land.
Take a decade to introduce free markets to North Korea in stages, and make sure that the North Koreans end up owning at least some of the new businesses.
The process of reunification will take time and I agree with others that the process needs to be well thought out. But, I am most concerned about "the divided families issues." The two governments can take time on its process, but meanwhile the process of reuniting the families must start now.
Dennis Neo, Singapore
It is time now to stop bickering and
move on. Both the Koreas have a lot
more to gain by talking peacefully than
by spouting mistrust about each other.
Koreans are also reputed for their unity
among kin. It is time for them to live
up to that and show it to the world.
I am delighted that the two Koreas are uniting.
I hope that will keep going peace talk.
I look forward to travelling in a unified Korea.
My name is Wendy Lee. I am from Korea.
I am 13 years old. I think it is very good.
I am very happy. I want a summit soon, but sometimes I worry about a summit. We can do it. Go Korea! I love South Korea and North Korea.
Reunification seems difficult as the two countries have gone so far apart. Putting them back together seems to be an impossible task. The countries, if reunited, will result in the North being a major drag on the South's economy for years to come. The question is, are the south Koreans prepared to sacrifice economic progress for reunification with the North? I personally don't think so. The North will be allowed to wither as a sole Communist pariah in an increasingly capitalist and prosperous North East Asia. Time will bring changes to the North like it did to its giant northern neighbour, changes of such a nature are best if they come from within.
Paul Lux, USA
The evil power to have divided one Korea peninsula for more half a century is still parasitizing in our weak mind and hostility towards another, as is defeated by a ghost of ideology. In this regards, the question of 'time for reunification' overlooking its method is a somewhat irrational approach. How the Korean will accomplish reunification should precede than when they do.
Sang Jun Shin, Korea
Natalie Nemo Kim, Korea
Clearly, with their economy in shambles and their only role model, China, liberalising theirs, North Korea has some issues! But neither side is going to roll over and "surrender" to the other's political credo; and given their polar approaches to such matters, they clearly have a long, long way to go. It is a start, though, and we can only wish them well.
The time for reunification is long overdue. It carries huge costs but nonetheless the two parts must unify. A stronger, reunited Korea is needed with US troops on its soil to act as a security buffer zone against both Japan and China.
Reunification should be a long-term goal but people should never forget what the cost was, even for a country as rich as West Germany. It is too soon for outright unification, but the process should be started asap.
13 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean leaders' historic handshake
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