Yesterday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced his proposal of a “reunification tax” for his nation. This unexpected announcement has set talks alblaze over the eventuality of the North Korean’s downfall. As part of his televised speech on the 65th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Imperial Japan, Lee stated there was a “need” to push for a special tax in the ”possible” event the Korean peninsula undergoes reunification.
After months of high tension on the peninsula following the ’mysterious’ sinking of a South Korean warship, Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors, and the severing of numerous diplomatic and financial relationships between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, a proposal of a reunification tax was the last thing anybody expected.
For South Koreans, Lee’s proposal for a unification tax, much less reunification, is spontaneous considering he had approved of various provacations and isolations including the installement of loud-speakers along the DMZ that played Cold War propaganda designed to lure North Korean soldiers across the border, U.S.-Korean military drills, and policies that have carefully bullied North Korea financially and, many claim, set back a solid reunification by decades.
The proposed tax would be reviewed by specialists to gather the appropriate funds for the expected cost of ‘proper reunification which is estimated, by also analyzing the costs of the West-East German reunification, to easily surpass hundreds of billions of dollars into the trillion.
Many have applauded the South Korean president for such a “timely suggestion” since North Korea’s leader Kim Jung-Il is quickly ailing (judging by released photos) added with the fact the communist government is destabilized due to policy failures and its poor economy which makes up a measly 2.89% of South Korea’s economy.
Indeed, President Lee hinted that “reunification will occur ‘soon’” in prediction of an inevitable and sudden collapse of the North Korean government.
Yet South Korean critics slapped their foreheads at the president’s proposal which would, again, provoke North Korea into threatning yet another military action against its southern neighbor for its president’s audacious comment. Other S. Koreans argue that the idea of a “reunification tax” at this time when North Korea is ‘vulnerable’ would give the false impression to both the North Korean government and South Korean citizens that the ROK would be absorbing the DPRK which would rocket the cost of reunification up to not just 1.7 trillion dollars, but to more than 2 trillion dollars considering the disparity between the two Korea’s economies.
Reunification is highly desirable and appealing to both Koreas, yet the jaw-dropping cost of reunifying the two countries has made the ROK and the majority of its citizens hesitate. A recent poll in 2009 showed that more than 80% of South Koreans wanted reunification, but less than 19% wanted a reunification within their generation in fear of economic consequences. Moreover, the culture of both side’s Koreans has drifted far apart since 1948 leading to fears that the North Koreans will not be able to integrate into a 21st century, Korean society which would create widespread social problems.
Disagreements between the two Koreas over the U.S military presence, North Korea’s nuclear program, and the 1953 armistice have largely halted reunification talks that was set in motion by former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung’s ”Sunshine Policy” which Lee Myung-bak’s party has virtually abolished.