President Park Geun-hye held a meeting with former senior officials of East and West Germany on Thursday to seek their advice on how best to prepare for unification with North Korea.
The meeting came a day after Park and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to work closely together to share the lessons of German unification to help South Korea chart a course for its own unification with the impoverished communist North.
Merkel said she believes it is Germany's obligation to help realize Korean unification.
"I believe you are the ones who can best understand the pains of national division and the yearnings for unification that South Koreans have, and offer good advice," Park said. "South Korea is making a lot of efforts to open an era of unification. I would like to hear your insight and wisdom."
Participants in Thursday's meeting included former East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere, former West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble, who is currently Germany's finance minister, and East Germany's last defense minister Rainer Eppelmann.
Later Thursday, Park planned to travel to the former East German economic center of Dresden where she could unveil a new vision for unification that could be called the "Unification Doctrine" or "Dresden Declaration. The visit will make her the first South Korean president to visit a city in former East Germany.
South Korean leaders have sometimes used trips to Germany to announce new proposals or policies on North Korea. In 2000, former President Kim Dae-jung issued the "Berlin Declaration," calling for the end of the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula and lasting peace between the two sides.
Three months after the declaration, Kim held the South's first-ever summit with North Korea.
In recent months, Park has made strong pitches for unification, saying it would be an economic "bonanza" for the two Koreas as well as a blessing for neighboring countries. She also ordered the creation of a presidential committee to prepare for unification.
In Wednesday's joint news conference with Park, Merkel said that German unification was also a bonanza, and that it changed the lives of 17 million people in former East Germany, including her own.
On Thursday morning, Park made a visit a photo exhibition featuring the Demilitarized Zone, the no-man's land serving as a buffer zone between the two Koreas, and the Grunes Band, or Green Belt in English, the German equivalent of the DMZ that was transformed into an ecological park after unification.
Last year, Park also proposed to North Korea that the two sides work together to develop the DMZ into an international peace park as a way to reduce cross-border tensions. But the project has since made little progress as the North has expressed negativity about it.
"This was a place that made people feel tragedy and despair, but was transformed into a place of hope and pride as German unification was realized," Park said during the visit to the photo exhibition. "I get to have hope and expectations that our DMZ will someday turn into a symbol of peace. I will try to make the DMZ such a place." (Yonhap)