Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
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.


Your reaction

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.
Noah, UK



I don't believe this heralds a new dawn in the relationship between north Korea and the rest of the rest of the planet.

Simon, Norway
Unfortunately, I don't believe this heralds a new dawn in the relationship between north Korea and the rest of the rest of the planet. All it signifies is just how far down the road to total collapse Pyongyang and Kim Jong-il will have brought their country to. Another Marxist success story!
Simon, Norway

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.
Hsiang Huang, USA

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.
Jae You, South Korea/United States



Japan and China would be certainly delighted as Japan won't need to worry about threats from North Korea.

Liang Ji, Chinese in the UK, UK
I guess USA may be the only country that would not like the reunification of two Koreas, which will bring peace and prosperity. Because reunification means there will not a need of US troops staying in South Korea and Japan to undertake a so-called peace-keeping task. Which in fact aims to protect the US military and economic interests in east Asia. Japan and China would be certainly delighted as Japan won't need to worry about threats from North Korea and China won't feel threatened by the US troops deployed in South Korea and both countries would benefit from the trade with North Korea.
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.
Wanda, Australia

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.
Callum Clench, New Zealand/Japan



This could be a wonderful economic opportunity for Korea: a supply of cheap labour suddenly appears

Barbara J. Vicent, USA
This could be a wonderful economic opportunity for Korea: a supply of cheap labour suddenly appears. All they have to do is remember the German example and deal kindly with one another.
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.
Shanmuga Sundara Raman, India

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.
Chris Cagle, USA



As soon as sufficient economic aid has been secured expect to see the DPRK retreating to its historically antagonistic position

Paul Burton, UK
North Korea has instigated the process of rapprochement with the South along purely self-interested lines. Such is the devastated nature of its agrarian economy that it had no choice but to open up to the South in order to procure aid. As soon as sufficient economic aid has been secured expect to see the DPRK retreating to its historically antagonistic position. Reunification is a process that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the communist hierarchy - a development they will fight at all costs.
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....
Jim Cornall, English in Canada

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).
The two Koreas are still technically at war and any unification is still a very long way off. One is ultra-communist and the other as capitalist as you can get. For unification to happen one of those systems will have to submit to the other.
David Patrick, UK



There would certainly be a renewed vibrancy throughout both countries

Justin Barrass, UK
I'm a Brit who has spent a year living and working in South Korea and who spent a good many nights listening to North Korean radio. I'm delighted that this summit has taken place; a year ago I wouldn't have deemed it possible, but times change quickly on the Korean peninsula. Reunifying Korea would indeed be a great achievement, but may well cripple both countries. The North could easily develop East Germany syndrome and the South, whose industrially based economy will bear the strain of encompassing the North, may buckle under the pressure. Nevertheless, there would certainly be a renewed vibrancy throughout both countries, I'm sure.
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?
B. J. Lorimer, UK (in Japan)



Korea will not have any chance of unification without help from the West

Jeremy DeWaal, USA
I believe that it is time for Korea to become one nation again. It is not, however, as simple as drawing up a declaration for unification and both leaders shaking hands. Korea will not have any chance of unification without help from the West.
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.
Jon Livesey, USA

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.
Julia Song, US



The impromptu meeting of the two Korean Head of States is indeed one of the most shocking news that I ever heard.

Dennis Neo, Singapore
The impromptu meeting of the two Korean Head of States is indeed one of the most shocking news that I ever heard. Previously, I would have thought of it as impossible. If the two Koreas were to be united, one could foresee many benefits, both socially and economically. They are, afterall, one people, people of a common race and culture. I personally hope that the two Koreas would get together and work towards a brighter future.
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.
Yue Sern Mok, Australia

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.
Hoiyun Ku, 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.
Wendy Lee South Korea



The two countries' psychology's are incompatible, don't let the fact they speak one language confuse you.

Andrej, Russia
First, unifying the two Koreas is like unifying ex-Soviet Russia with Russian Americans who fled after 1917. The two countries' psychology's are incompatible, don't let the fact they speak one language confuse you. Unification is far in the future; but today president's talk - this is the first of the many steps.
Andrej, Russia

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.
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada



There is still too much animosity between the average North and South Korean to move quickly toward a final re-unification

Paul Lux, USA
There is still too much animosity between the average North and South Korean to move quickly toward a final re-unification. Any attempts to open the border will most likely result in the kind of en masse exodus we saw after Romania opened its borders with West Germany. Years of economic hardship and shortages that almost rival even the worst years of the former Soviet Union will send many North Koreans streaming over the border to "better-off" relatives in the south. With the fine line that South Korea's economy has been walking of late, even they would be hard pressed to support this kind of influx to their population. Only an ideological breakdown in the North can result in eventual re-unification. The two ideologies cannot co-exist along an open border.
Paul Lux, USA



The question of 'time for reunification' overlooking its method is a somewhat irrational approach

Sang Jun Shin, Korea
Most of people in Korea have been being anxious for reunification of the two Koreas. But, the unprecedented summit between the two Koreas yesterday does require us to think not we must reunify right now, but why we must do it or what should be prepared for it before our falling in a rash expectation of what the reunification will bring us.
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



The two Koreas will now have to start the unification process with an expectant heart and a cool head

Natalie Nemo Kim, Korea
The two Koreas will now have to start the unification process with an expectant heart and a cool head. Everyone is aware of the potentially huge cost of reunification, both economic and social, but the cost of division over the last fifty years was far greater.
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.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

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.
Michael Jun Sung Shim, Korea

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.
Michael Blatt, UK

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

13 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean leaders' historic handshake


Links to other Talking Point stories