Vice Speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly Chung Ui-Hwa: Koreas’ unification may take more than 10 years with cost of over $2 Trln
Vice Speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly Chung Ui-Hwa has given an interview with Interfax in which he speaks on Pyongyang-Seoul relations, as well as ways to boost South-Korean-Russian economic cooperation.Chung does not think that the unification between the two Koreas is likely in coming years. "I personally believe that it will take more than 10 years at a minimum until this happens," he said.
"The phase before unification, for example, free passing between the North and the South, interchanging telephone and letters freely and having mutual trade and investment, would take within 10 years," Chung said.
The project to extend the Trans-Siberian Railway to South Korea would have a positive impact on the unification of the two Koreas, Chung said.
"I believe this project will play a very important role in bringing economic integration with North Korea," he said.
Speaking about the possible cost of unification, Chung found it difficult to forecast it. He noted that the cost of unification will largely depend on when this will happen. "In the case of Germany, the total cost of unification up to this point is known to be 4% of its GDP," he said.
"It fluctuates with different scholars. However, it is estimated that the cost of unifying the two Koreas will be 1%-2% of the GDP of South Korea, that is, $400 billion - $800 billion. Some scholars even estimate that it may cost more than $2 trillion," the vice speaker said.
Chung also expressed hope that a successor of Kim Jong-il will make North Korea a more open country.
"Even if North Korean leader Kim Jong-il passes his power to his son, it is more important that this action will lead to political stability and further to reformation and openness where North Korea introduces a market economy such as the one in China," Chung Ui-Hwa said.
The point is not who exactly will succeed Kim Jong-il, he said.
"The key issue is whoever the following leader becomes, if it brings political stability and also economic reformation and openness, ultimately bringing development to North Korea it would be what I personally hope for," the parliamentarian said.
South Korean media outlets earlier reported about the deteriorating health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Allegedly it was the reason why the Korean Labor Party had to postpone its largest congress over the past 30 years. The congress is expected to consider the current leader‘s successor, who reportedly could be his son Kim Jong-un.
As to South Korean-Russian economic relations, Chung said that the current economic cooperation between Korea and Russia is below expectations. In his opinion one of the ways to boost it is that “if the people living in Siberia to the end of the Kamchatka peninsula including Lake Baikal would be able to have a no-visa entry for one month, two months, or three months, hopefully three months, it would greatly increase the number of people and also the amount of economic exchange with Korea.”
"I would like to make such a proposal to the Russian government," he noted.
"If there be a mutual effort by the two countries, I believe that they could increase the amount of trade and commerce, increase mutual investment," he said.
In particular, South Korea could invest in the regions of Vladivostok and Nakhodka, Chung said.
"Investments may be made in the areas of agriculture, new energy and tourism," the parliamentarian said.