Over 70 percent of South Koreans plan to donate to a government fund set up to pay for potential unification between North and South Korea, a recent survey suggests. If the two countries were successfully reconciled, the Finance Ministry estimates that unification would cost South Korea 7 percent of its GDP for 10 years.
North and South Korea have made various joint declarations of intent since the 1970s, but there has never been any successful implementation. However, the South has set up the fund to raise $50 million for a hypothetical unification, and almost almost three quarters of South Koreans surveyed think that other countries, such as China and the United States, should also contribute towards the financial cost of unification.
The survey, which was conducted by the South Korean national television channel KTV, asked 700 South Korean men and women about relations with North Korea. 75 percent of respondents thought unification would help the South Korean economy, with 36 percent saying it would be “extremely beneficial”, and 40 percent of people saying it would be “beneficial”. Only 8 percent of people thought unification would not really benefit South Korea economically or would have no positive impact at all.
Political and military tensions flared up again last month with North Korea firing shells across the sea border, and South Korea retaliating. When asked about Park Wang-ja, a 53-year-old South Korean tourist who was shot and killed in 2008 by soldiers in a North Korean mountain resort, 35 percent of those surveyed agreed with the decision to call off peace talks after the incident, while 24 percent were against cancelling the talks.
It’s the practicalities of unification that continue to be most hotly debated, however, and this includes the question of who should foot the bill.
Ditching the idea of a universal reunification tax, the South Korean government has set up a donation fund which aims to raise $50 billion for unification. When asked if they planned to donate to the government fund, 25 percent said they definitely wanted to, and a further 47 percent said they’d consider it. Only 18 percent answered that they had no intention of donating whatsoever.
The biggest consensus was on whether other nations should be chipping in too. 68 percent of South Koreans surveyed agreed that “other countries like the United States and China should also pay some of the costs of unification”. Only 14 percent said that it was not at all necessary for other countries to contribute financially. The South Korean government has not said that neighbouring countries would be asked to donate.
▼ The Arch of Reunification, in Pyongyang. The road under the arch leads to Seoul, connecting the two countries’ capitals in a wish for peace.