South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak is visiting Western Europe with the Federal Republic of Germany as his first stop. Lee really does not have to persuade the Europeans of anything because his country has just signed a free-trade agreement with the European Union. But a free-trade agreement should be filled with content and the South Korean president, an ex business executive who will subsequently visit Denmark and France, would like to expand the significant trade that already exists still further.
Lee has attempted to emphasize cooperation in environmentally friendly industries, an area that is important to the European Union despite its current economic difficulties.
An interesting part of the visit to Berlin was a statement by the visitor expressing the hope that his country, like Germany, would eventually be reunified.. Germany serves as an inspiration, as German reunification came much quicker than anybody expected and the same could transpire on the Korean Peninsula.
Just as the former West Germany was willing to pay a tremendous economic price to absorb the backward and economically disintegrating former East Germany, President Lee promised to seek unification despite sacrifice involved in the expectation that reunification would lead to prosperity.
The South Korean president tied the unification issue to a solution of the crisis caused by the North Korean nuclear weapons program. "The existence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula would delay unification. If we are unified with nuclear weapons in our possession, neighboring countries won't easily accept it," Lee said.
It is unclear to whom the South Korean president meant to address his argument. If to North Korea and the government of Kim Jung Il, he could be sure that Pyongyang was essentially in agreement.
The very presence of nuclear weapons in North Korea was designed first and foremost to keep the communist regime in power. The last thing that the communist regime wants is unification along the German model. A reunified Korea, like reunified Germany, would have no room for the leaders of the communist regime and they would be fortunate to escape trial and prison. The German Unity Party (as the Communists called themselves in East Germany) was guilty of many misdeeds, but the crimes pale in comparison with North Korea, a regime that inflicted famine upon its population.
While this is speculation, Lee may have established the connection between North Korean nuclear weapons and reunification to persuade South Korea. There were quite a few South Koreans who essentially rejoiced when North Korea got the bomb because they view this achievement as a victory for Korean nationalism. Now their president is effectively telling them that nuclear weapons work against the fondest hope of Korean nationalism, namely reunification.