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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The South Korean government is planning to fund research projects into a range of potential models for unification with North Korea, documents seen by NK News showed this week, with case-studies including federation and EU-style confederation among several under consideration.
In plans for the two research projects, the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) asked prospective participants in the project to examine cases of gradual unification.
Previous research on unification, it said, has concentrated on comparing Korea’s case to that of the “radical unification” of Germany in 1990, asking researchers to assume the North and South would likely take a more gradual approach.
Participants are also asked to look to the step-by-step process of unification suggested in the “Korean National Community Unification Formula” and pay attention to “implications that could be considered in the process of gradual change.”
The formula has long been the South Korean government’s formal plan for unification and is composed of three stages: reconciliation and cooperation, inter-Korean confederation, and unification.
Taking the recent changes in the situation of the peninsula into account, the unification ministry said it is necessary to study international models in preparation for the “possibility of peaceful co-existence.”
To this end, one project aims to research a wide spectrum of overseas cases of “peaceful co-existence and integration” in preparation for gradual changes on the Korean peninsula.
Since the two Koreas acknowledged a “common element in the South’s concept of a confederation and the North’s formula for a loose form of federation” in the 2000 inter-Korean joint declaration, successive South Korean governments have offer their own take on how this form of unification could take place.
This week’s proposal sees researchers asked to “concretely suggest problems expected to come up in the process of integrating and unifying the Korean peninsula” based on the implications of each overseas case.
The background, purpose, and process of each integration, as well as its institutional arrangements and operating conditions, should be listed in detail, along with issues which arose in the process of integration and solutions to those issues.
An assessment on the effectiveness of integration from the perspective of the parties concerned and neighboring countries should be also suggested and comprehensively systematized using graphs and other tools.
Each case should be classified according to format, it asks, including “confederation, federation, and special cases.”
Other categories suggested by the ROK MOU also contain cases in which plans have failed or succeeded, as well as whether the integration in ongoing, transitional, or complete.
The South Korean government will provide KRW90 million ($79,000) to the project, which is set to be completed by October 31 this year.
Another MOU-backed project will see researchers carry out “in-depth research on cases of integration” focusing on the institutional arrangements of the European Union in preparation for the unification of the peninsula.
Based on an analysis and assessment of the EU case, researchers are asked “predict internal and external strife and problems that may arise in the process of integration and unification of South and North Korea.”
As an outcome of the research, plans for “handling” potential issues must also be suggested.
The ROK MOU also said researchers should presume that the step-by-step unification process proposed in the Korean National Community Unification Formula will take place.
The EU, it says, is the “most successful case of confederation that has formed and deepened the alliance in a wide range of fields including politics, economy, and society in a multi-stage and gradual process” since its beginnings as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).
Researchers are required to “differentiate” their study from previous ones by focusing on issues like institutional arrangements and operation methods, as well as “internal and external conflicts in the process of establishing and managing confederation and ways to handle the issues.”’
Seoul reiterated the necessity of “examining in detail the problems, conflicts, and settlement processes that emerged in the process of operating EU institutions” and supporting these facts with empirical data.
Problems, considerations, and solutions that could happen in the process of integrating and unifying the two Koreas must also be provided.
The unification ministry asks potential collaborators to conduct “in-depth research” on the EU’s Poland and Hungary Assistance for the Restructuring of the Economy (PHARE) program, saying that example holds “a lot of implications” for the two Koreas.
A total of KRW149 million ($131,000) will be allocated to the project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of November.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Pyeongyang Press Corps