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S. Korean schools to teach N. Korea power transfer

South Korea has included a section about North Korea’s young heir apparent in its annually-released guidelines for unification education, noting the need for students to develop critical views about the ongoing three-generation succession in the North, officials said Wednesday.

Seoul’s state-run Institute of Political Education for Unification provides teachers with new guidelines in educating elementary, middle and high school students each year. The institute said it has published 100,000 copies of this year’s guidelines.

“This year’s guidelines have reflected the overall changes in inter-Korean relations after North Korea’s attacks” against a South Korean warship and a border island last year, a Unification Ministry official told reporters on the condition of customary anonymity.

“They also mention the ongoing move by the North Korean regime to have Kim Jong-il’s son Kim Jong-un as the next leader and how such anachronistic three-generation succession is unprecedented in the history of modern politics,” the official added.

Kim Jong-un, who is said to be no more than 27 years old and the youngest among the North Korean leader’s sons, was first officially announced as successor last year, indicating the growing urgency to transfer power from the ailing dictator.

The elder Kim, 69, apparently suffered a stroke in 2008 and has not recovered completely with observers saying he will not live for more than five years.

Many people here speculate Pyongyang’s heir apparent orchestrated the torpedoing of the South Korean warship Cheonan, bombarding of the border island Yeonpyeong and the DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack by hackers. Some 50 South Koreans lost their lives due to the brutal attacks in March and November last year.

Pyongyang’s disastrous currency reforms last year and the anticipated expenses to reunify with the impoverished regime have also been included in the new guidelines, according to the Unification Ministry, which handles affairs with the North.

“The guidelines emphasize that the unification costs should be seen as an investment for the future, whereas money will have to be spent endlessly should the two Koreas remain separated,” the unnamed ministry official said.

At the end of World War II, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into the Soviet-backed North and pro-U.S. South, a separation cemented after the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce rather than a permanent peace treaty.

Many recent surveys here have shown that a decreasing number of South Koreans are willing to shoulder the expense of reunifying with the impoverished North, an issue experts say could grow into a serious problem in the near future.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, would have to shoulder extensive costs to improve the communist North’s poor living conditions and infrastructure should the two Koreas be rejoined, analysts say.

The conservative Lee Myung-bak government in Seoul proposed last year to introduce the so-called unification tax to start preparing for the estimated $1.3 trillion cost Seoul would shoulder to reunite with Pyongyang.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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