Can Korea Learn from German Unification?
We first analyze pre-unification similarities and differences between the two Germanys and the two Koreas in terms of demographic, social, political and economic status. An important issue is the degree of international openness. “Stone-age” type communism of North Korea and the seclusion of the population prevented inner-Korean contacts and contacts with rest of the world. This may create enormous adjustment costs if institutions, especially informal institutions, change. We go on by showing how transition and integration interact in a potential unification process based on the World Bank Revised Minimum Standard Model (RMSM) and on the Salter-Swan-Meade model. In doing so, we relate the macro and external impacts on an open economy to its macro-sectoral structural dynamics. The findings suggest that it is of utmost importance to relate microeconomic policies to the macroeconomic ties and side conditions for both parts of the country. Evidence from Germany suggests that the biggest general error in unification was neglecting these limits, especially limitations to policy instruments. Econometric analysis supports these findings. In the empirical part, we consider unification as an “investment” and track down the (by-and-large immediate to medium-term) costs and the (by-and-large long-term) benefits of retooling a retarded communist economy. We conclude that, from a South-Korean perspective, the Korean unification will become relatively much more expensive than the German unification and, thus, not only economic, but to a much larger degree political considerations must include the tying of neighboring countries into the convergence process. We finally provide, 62 years after Germany’s division and 20 years after unification, an outlook on the strength of economic inertia in order to show that it may take much more than a generation to compensate the damage inflicted by the communist system.
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