President says Pyongyang will seek dialogue with Seoul for stability as it goes through power transition
FRANKFURT -- President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday met with four leaders of the 1990 German reunification in Berlin to share their experiences and advice in preparing for South Korea’s reunification with North Korea.
Lee met with Lothar de Maiziere, the last prime minister of East Germany; Wolfgang Schauble, former West German minister of interior who signed the reunification treaty in 1990; Horst Teltschick, who served as foreign affairs aide to then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl; and Jorg Schonbohm, who supervised the absorption of the East German army into the Federal German armed forces as commander of the East German region in 1990.
The German experts said that various exchanges between the East and West since the 1970s, combined with the Helsinki Process of debates and dialogue that led to accords aimed at improving relations between the Communist bloc and the West, supported the German reunification.
“The experts also said that what was most important in achieving reunification was the two sides’ shared faith that they are one people,” Lee’s aide for external strategy Kim Tae-hyo told reporters.
Referring to how Germany built up diplomatic knowhow for decades through manifold bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, they advised Seoul to set a clear goal and assure neighboring countries that (Korea’s) reunification would not hurt regional order.
“They noted that Germany could prepare for reunification by attaining strong security through its alliance with the U.S. and continuing cooperation and dialogue with the former Soviet Union, the biggest barrier to reunification,” Kim said.
President Lee Myung-bak and first lady Kim Yoon-ok meet German officials during a dinner hosted by German President Christian Wulff in Berlin on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
“They advised that (South) Korea should seek closer cooperation with China, like how West Germany did with the Soviet Union, firm security is essential for reunification.”
The German experts also emphasized that financial preparation was also important, noting how Germans struggled to economically integrate the East despite having paid unification taxes for the past 20 years, according to Kim.
Lee thanked the four people for sharing a very "timely and useful experience," and invited them to the first annual Korea-Germany conference on reunification to be held in Seoul this fall.
He also noted that unlike Germany, Korea still had a lot to do to cure the wounds from the fratricidal Korean War (1950-53).
"Reunification is not a matter of choice but an inevitable task, therefore we must prepare well," Lee was quoted as saying by Kim.
Lee said during an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published Tuesday that he expects Pyongyang to seek dialogue with Seoul as the Kim Jong-il regime wants stability as it undergoes a rather abrupt third-generation power transfer to his son Jong-un.
“North Korea is in the beginning of a third-generational power succession, so they want stability,” Lee said.
“Therefore, they’re expected to seek dialogue (with the South). But even if the power transfer takes place as planned, I believe Kim Jong-il will still have control over the country for a while.”
Lee also said in the interview that the South Korean army’s plan to establish a military hotline with the Chinese was aimed at maintaining peace in Northeast Asia.
“(South) Korea has built on friendly relations with Japan for a long time and close economic ties with China,” he said.
“Diplomatically, China is Korea’s strategic cooperation partner. The hotline (plan) is not because of North Korea. (Seoul’s) relations with China will expand in military terms as well.”
Lee said he believed China can “positively influence” North Korea to help the reclusive country open up its market to the outside world.
In response to a question on energy security in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, the president said South Korea will continue to run its atomic power plants until it achieves the ability to produce economically viable renewable energy.
Lee took off for Frankfurt after his breakfast meeting with the leaders of German reunification on Tuesday.
Upon arrival in Frankfurt, Lee met with 15 German business leaders including the chief of the Frankfurt Chamber of Commerce and representatives of major German companies such as BASF (chemicals), Siemens (machinery), Boehringer Ingelheim (pharmaceuticals), Robert Bosch (auto parts) and Schaeffler Group (bearings).
Lee noted that the German businesses could use Korea, the first Asian country to sign a free trade pact with the European Union, to make inroads into emerging Asian markets such as China, ASEAN and India, and asked them to lead investment in Korea for green growth.
The German businessmen told the businessman-turned-president that they expect the recently signed Korea-EU FTA would help boost bilateral trade and investment, Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.
Lee met with South Korean residents in Frankfurt in the evening before attending a dinner hosted by the minister-president of the Hessen state.
Lee plans to leave Frankfurt for Copenhagen Wednesday morning. He will then fly to Paris Thursday evening and head home Saturday. The president is scheduled to arrive in Seoul Sunday morning.
By Kim So-hyun, Korea Herald correspondent (email@example.com