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Speeches and Contributions





Date  2000-03-09


Speaker  Kim Dae-jung



President Gaehtsgens, faculty members, honorable guests, and students of the Free University of Berlin,

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest respect for and heartfelt congratulations to the great nation of Germany which has achieved the historic task of reunification and prosperity overcoming the ruins of war and division of the territory. It is quite meaningful for me to talk about the "Lessons of the German Reunification and the Korean Peninsula" with the distinguished faculty and students of the Free University of Berlin. I appreciate very much the friendly welcome you have accorded me.


I am well aware of the historical fact that, ever since its opening in 1948, this University and its graduates played a leading role in promoting reconciliation and cooperation between East and West Germany and in their eventual unification. Today, I came here to learn about your experiences, which is extremely important for a President of Korea which is still divided.


Germany and Korea share similar pains and success. In modern history, both experienced tragic wars and the subsequent division of the land. Then Germany created the Miracle on the Rhine and Korea, the Miracle on the Han River.


During the past two years, Korea was hit with a serious economic crisis that swept the Asian region. Again, Korea has overcome the difficulties in cooperation with Germany and many other friendly countries. When the foreign exchange crisis hit Korea at the end of 1997, the foreign exchange reserves had hit rock bottom at US$3.9 billion; in a matter of two years, the figure now stands at a respectable US$80 billion. During 1998, the Korean economy was reduced to a growth rate of minus 5.8 percent; however, it made a dramatic turnaround last year by recording a 10.2 percent annual rate. Prices, interest rates and the foreign exchange and stock markets have recovered stability. The unemployment rate is expected to be stabilized at 4 percent by the end of this year.


In addition to building a viable economy in a short time, Korea and Germany also have the common experience of developing and protecting freedom and democracy. Our two countries may be far apart geographically, but we share so may things historically and in today's world. That is why the Korean people feel a sense of solidarity with and affection toward Germans.


Distinguished faculty members and students,


As the 20th century which was plagued with confrontation and conflicts is left behind, the new millennium is being greeted with fresh hope for conciliation, cooperation and common prosperity. The 20th century also saw the Soviet and East European system crumble, the 50-year Cold War dismantled, and the two Germanies integrated. The remaining Communist countries of China and Vietnam have introduced a market economy and are attempting reforms and changes. To the Republic of Korea, China and Vietnam are no longer hostile countries. In fact, they have become very good friends as well as partners in economic cooperation.


Despite all this change, the Korean Peninsula today remains the last vestige of the Cold-War legacy. It is regrettable that the historic world-wide change has failed to produce an impact on the peninsula mainly because of North Korea's stubborn closed-door policies.


Faced with such an unfavorable attitude by North Korea, my Administration has never relaxed its efforts to put an end to the structure of confrontation and bring permanent peace to the peninsula. Peace on the peninsula is essential to peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the world as a whole. In this regard, we are very eager to learn from your experiences. German reunification and the relations between East and West Germany in the intervening years should provide very valuable precepts in carrying out my country's North Korea policies.


The first lesson we seem to be learning from the German experience is that unification was possible because of West Germany's enormous potential which was derived from democracy and a market economy. The confrontation between the two Germanies represented competition between the two, one upholding democracy and a market economy and the other advocating Communism and socialism.


Second, West Germany pushed Ostpolitik, aimed at bringing about changes through contact and dialogue and building a system of detente and coexistence. The country's consistent policy of promoting cooperation and exchanges resulted in a lessening of suspicion and mistrust by East Germany and a reduction in ideological tensions.


Third, West Germany approached the question of reunification with sincerity and faithfulness and took steps to assuage the unwarranted worries of neighboring countries. Its diplomacy was so successful as to obtain understanding and cooperation from even the Soviet Union and many East European countries.


Fourth, the West German Government pushed reconciliation, cooperation and exchanges with East Germany patiently and faithfully, overcoming many difficulties and limitations, real and otherwise.


The German experiences shed bright light on Korea's Sunshine Policy toward Pyongyang. For many decades, I have advocated the step-by-step reunification of Korea, moving gradually from peaceful coexistence to peaceful exchanges and then to peaceful reunification. In the process, I had valuable exchanges of ideas with my good friend and former Chancellor Willy Brandt, for whom I have utmost respect, former President von Weizsacker, and former Foreign Minister Genscher. I learned tremendously from West German policies toward East Germany and from the developments since German unification.


Another lesson I learned from German unification is how difficult the process of relieving the economic discrepancies and psychological friction between the two parts of the country is. Koreans were so elated when we first heard about German reunification. But then we were also disheartened by several developments after unification. The first shock we felt was the enormity of the expenses required for integrating the two parts. We heard that the unified German Government ended up spending 10 times more than the 200 billion marks originally set aside for that purpose. We also hear that the economic disparity between the two regions is yet to be eliminated. The second shocking news is that there is still a lingering psychological distance between the two parts.


At the time of reunification, the West German economy was much bigger than Korea's. Furthermore, it had never fought a war with East Germany, and of course, unification was preceded by many cooperative exchanges. Now, those German experiences made us think about our reunification harder. Right now, the South Korean economy is not big enough to support North Korea. We fought a bitter war with North Korea and military confrontation is still tense. Moreover, during the Weimar Republic, all the German people lived in a full-fledged democracy. By contrast, the North Koreans have no experience of living in a free society; they have, all along, been isolated from the outside world. When those things are considered, it seems out of the question that we should hasten territorial reunification.


Therefore, instead of hurrying to achieve immediate reunification, the most realistic and reasonable approach seems to be to work for the elimination of the ever-present threats of conflict first and then to pursue reconciliation, cooperation, coexistence and coprosperity. Any attempt to reunify the divided land should come after that.


In 1995, I wrote a book, Three-Stage Approach to Korean Reunification. The first step would be to establish a union of two states. The second would be a federal system under which the South and North would establish local autonomous administrative units. The third and final step would be to complete unification. Former Chancellor Willy Brandt and many other German leaders gave me enthusiastic support and encouragement for this approach.


Professors and students of the Free University of Berlin,


Since I was inaugurated, I have repeatedly stated three principles to North Korea which is still hesitant in opening up and changing their attitude. The first one is that South Korea will not tolerate any armed provocation from the North. Second, the Republic will not try to harm the North in any way or absorb it. Third, the South and North should cooperate and become reconciled. These principles are the crux of my Sunshine Policy aimed at dismantling the Cold-War legacy. We will continue to maintain a firm defense capability, the sole purpose of which is to support goodwill, cooperation and peace on the peninsula.


In the same vein, the Republic is making three important promises to Pyongyang--to guarantee their national security, assist in their economic recovery efforts, and actively support them in international arena. In return, the Republic wants three guarantees from Pyongyang: First, the North must abandon any armed provocation against the South once and for all; second, it must comply with its previous promises not to develop nuclear weapons; and third, it must give up ambitions to develop long-range missiles. My approach is the comprehensive settlement of all major pending issues based on the principle of give and take or reciprocity. This set of proposals, which is closely coordinated among Korea, the U.S. and Japan, has been presented to Pyongyang. I am certain that this is a win-win policy that should benefit all parties concerned.


The comprehensive settlement policy is supported by Germany and virtually all other countries of the world. Even China, Russia and Vietnam, which have been North Korea's traditional allies, are now supporting our position actively. This kind of universal support effectively eliminates a substantial part of the menace to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.


We do not want another war with North Korea. We want to coexist with it and intend to help it. Whenever we witness the tragic scene of hungry North Koreans on TV, we are devastated. We want to help North Korea feed their citizens adequately. We want to help it recover from the deep economic slump and improve its standard of living. Currently, there is no government-to-government dialogue because of Pyongyang's reluctance. But my Administration is aggressively encouraging private sector cooperation and exchanges. We welcome and encourage all international efforts to increase exchanges with Pyongyang.


As a result of these efforts, non-governmental cooperation with the North is expanding in numerous areas, including the economy, culture and sports. More than 180,000 South Korean tourists visited the famous Kumgangsan, or Diamond Mountains, in the North in recent years. Inter-Korean trade registered a record high of US$340 million last year. More than 100 small- and medium-size companies from the South are engaged in business in the North. Big businesses are investing in the North or negotiating to open operations there. It is likely that investment from some big businesses from Seoul will enable North Korea to build a large West Coast industrial park this year and start producing electronic appliance and automobiles. Cultural and sports exchanges are rather lively, too.


In the meantime, the U.S. and North Korea held talks right here in Berlin last year and decided to have high-level talks in the near future. Japan, too, is actively seeking to improve its relations with Pyongyang. Italy and North Korea have agreed to set up diplomatic ties. We hope that many nations will improve relations with the North. Through open interaction with the global economy, North Korea will emerge as a responsible member of the international community, contribute to the stability of the peninsula, and develop its economy efficiently.


Faculty members and students,


On this significant day of my visit to the Free University of Berlin, I appeal to all concerned to help bring down the Cold-War structure on the Korean Peninsula. I make the following suggestions in an effort to establish permanent peace and realize reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea.


First, the Government of the Republic of Korea is ready to help North Korea tide over its economic difficulties. Presently, private-sector economic cooperation is underway under the principle of separating the economy and politics. However, to realize meaningful economic collaboration, the social infrastructure, including highways, harbors, railroads and electric and communications facilities, must be expanded. The Governments of the two Koreas have important roles to play, including conclusion of bilateral agreements regarding investment guarantees and prevention of double taxation, so that private businesses will be able to invest in a secure environment. The severe food shortage that faces North Korea now cannot be solved by merely supplying food. A fundamental solution requires comprehensive reforms in the delivery of quality fertilizers, agricultural equipment, irrigation systems and other elements of a structural nature.


Private businesses can do only so much in expanding the social infrastructure, promoting a favorable investment environment and reforming the overall agricultural set-up. The time is ripe for government-to-government cooperation. The Government of the Republic is ready to respond positively to any North Korean request in this regard.


Second, at the present stage, our immediate objective is to put an end to the Cold-War confrontation and settle peace, rather than attempting to accomplish reunification. The Government of the Republic intends to do its best to lend assistance to North Korea in the spirit of genuine reconciliation and cooperation. We urge the Pyongyang authorities to accept our goodwill without any reservation, come forward and respond to our offer to cooperate and be reconciled.


Third, North Korea should respond to our call for arranging reunions of relatives separated in the different parts of the divided land. We cannot afford to lose precious time any longer, considering the fact that many elderly family members are passing away.


Fourth, to effectively deal with various pending issues, the government authorities of the two Koreas should open a dialogue without delay. In my inaugural speech, I proposed to the North that Seoul and Pyongyang exchange special envoys to implement the Basic South-North Agreement concluded in 1991. I reiterate that North Korea should respond positively to this proposal.


We believe that ultimately the issues involving the Korean Peninsula should be solved by the government authorities of the two Koreas. The Government of the Republic will adhere to this principle with consistency and patience. At the same time, we have high expectation that Germany and other members of the international community will support and encourage cooperation and reconciliation between the South and North and help bring down the Cold-War structure on the peninsula at the earliest possible date.


Faculty members and students,


There is a saying in Korea that "those who suffer from the same illness understand each other the best." Korea and Germany have suffered the same kind of pain--the division of the land. The two peoples have empathy for each other. Koreans have tremendous respect for the Germans who overcame the pain and achieved the great task of reunification first. You are our role model.


That is not all. Germany gave the Korean people the most encouragement when they were groaning under the oppression of military dictators. During the long struggle against the dictators, I encountered near-death situations five times and was imprisoned for six years. For another 30 years, I was subjected to exile, house arrest and constant police surveillance. Through those trying years, German leaders and citizens all along supported me and other democracy fighters with all their heart. I am so grateful for that.


Now, democracy has finally arrived in Korea. But we still have the great national task of realizing reunification of the divided land. I am confident that Germany will give us the same kind of encouragement until the day of Korean reunification. At the same time, you can be assured that the Korean people will continue to remain the most faithful friends of Germany. Together with the great German people and the bright minds of the Free University of Berlin, we intend to march forward to open a new millennium of peace.


Thank you.