For over sixty years the nation of Korea has been divided in to two halves, North and South. Development in the North has been stalled for approximately three decades and the continuing economic deprivation, combined with the growing likelihood of an imminent and tenuous transfer of power to Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, increases the potential for economic collapse in the North and absorption unification by the South. Given the severity of the economic disparity between the two nations, unification in this manner is likely to be far more expensive than South Korea can reasonably afford on its own. The United States has been deeply involved in the East Asian region for decades and has extensive relationships with South Korea and its neighbors. Because of these deep regional interests and ties it is unthinkable that the United States would not assist the reunification process in some manner. What the United States must decide is if it intends to engage in Korean reunification in a unilateral or a multilateral manner.
The United States gains a great deal by planning for a regional partnership approach to Korean reunification. This approach will allow the United States to maintain its regional influence while improving its relationships with the four other nations involved: Korea, Russia, China, and Japan. A regional partnership will help South Korea finance reunification through both multilateral aid and by promoting projects that will improve the infrastructure and connectivity of the North to encourage further foreign direct investment. The faster North Korea is brought up to an economic level similar to South Korea the more stable the nation as a whole will be. This will allow United Korea to be better able to economically and politically engage with the region and the world as a whole. The United
States, and the entire East Asian region, benefits from helping Korea accomplish reunification as smoothly and as rapidly as possible.
Professional paper for the fulfillment of the Master of Public Policy
U.S. Involvement in Korean Reunification: Unilateral vs. Multilateral Engagement.
Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
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