Park, Merkel agree to cooperate on Korean unification strategy

Park, Merkel agree to cooperate on Korean unification strategy
President Park Geun-hye lays a wreath in front of a memorial for fallen soldiers in Berlin on Wednesday.

SOUTH KOREA - President Park Geun-hye and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Wednesday to closely cooperate on efforts toward reunification with both pointing to the benefits of overcoming national division.

During their summit in Berlin, the two agreed to establish a multifaceted bilateral cooperation mechanism through which Germany would share its unification experience in terms of social and economic integration and international cooperation.

They also decided to form cooperative networks among their financial authorities and economic policy think tanks to carry out more systematic studies on financing the unification process.

"South Korea and Germany have a special bond as we share the bitter experience of national division during the Cold War era," said Park during a joint press conference after her talks with Merkel. "Germany is a model for the reunification of the Korean Peninsula as it has already achieved national unity beyond unification."

Park arrived in Germany on Tuesday night for a four-day state visit after attending the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands. Park first met Merkel 14 years ago when they both were opposition leaders. This was their fifth meeting.

Calling unification a "glucksfall," meaning windfall or lucky break, Merkel pledged to offer full support for Seoul's endeavours to prepare for unification.

"German unification was a glucksfall. I myself was the byproduct of unification, I would say," she said.

"We will provide support so that unification will be realised in Korea. Germany was divided for 40 years and Korea has been divided for almost 70 years. I think it is our obligation to help South Korea achieve unification."

Merkel's choice of words mirrors Park's description of reunification as an economic "bonanza." Park said the goal would benefit not only Korea, but also neighbouring countries. She has also announced a plan to build a preparatory committee for reunification, which will focus on building public consensus and creating a blueprint for the unified peninsula.

Her trip to Germany will culminate with a speech at Dresden, the former East German economic centre, on Friday. There, she is due to unveil a concrete vision for reunification with North Korea.

Also on the agenda for the bilateral summit was strengthening bilateral trade, investment and other business exchanges and cooperation. Last year, the two-way trade volume marked a record high of $27.2 billion.

The two leaders agreed to work together for the "balanced" sharing of benefits from the South Korea-EU free trade agreement; build a mechanism for cooperation among the two countries' small and medium-sized businesses; and strengthen cooperation in Korea's efforts to adopt Germany's work-and-study system.

Park, in particular, focused on receiving help from Germany in raising small yet highly successful businesses. Most of these "hidden champions" produce inconspicuous products, but are ranked top in the world for those products.

"Germany has the best cooperative system linking industries, academia and research institutes. Along with it, we would like to study how to apply Germany's system to nurture what they call 'hidden champions' in Korea," said Park.

During the leaders' summit, they also shared the view that they should work closely together to encourage Pyongyang to renounce its nuclear ambitions and become a responsible member of the international community, Seoul officials said.

During the joint press conference, Park also touched on her push to foster peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

"In Northeast Asia, there are many territorial and historical conflicts. But because of economic interdependence, I believe taking actions which would break (economic cooperative) frameworks, would be difficult," she said.

"Thus, I proposed the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation initiative and I will flesh it out more and push for it."

Earlier in the day, Park visited the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, a symbol of German unification. Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit guided her around the gate.

"The Brandenburg Gate symbolizes German unification. I hope Korea can also realise reunification," said Park.


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