April 2024
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4


C. Tan: Address to International Leadership Conference 2019

Address to International Leadership Conference 2019, Seoul, Korea, May 15-17, 2019


The rise of Communism internationally caused four divided countries after WWII, of which North Vietnam unified the country by force while West Germany unified with East Germany peacefully using their economic strength but at great financial cost. The similarity in these two examples is that unification is achieved after one side falls. The remaining two countries, the divided South and North Korea, and the ROC and PRC, become issues of concern. Interestingly, both North Korea and Mainland China, the two communist regimes, continue to threaten the other half and have not given up the option of using force. On the other hand, Taiwan has deemed herself as a beacon to lead the way to the Mainland’s democratic development, while South Korea has also tried to promote a qualitative change in North Korea with the “sunshine policy.” These show the core differences in thinking between democratic and communist regimes regarding pursuing reunification.

The divided China was caused by a power struggle between nationalists and communists after a civil war. Although the Mainland does not give up reunification by force, it also proposes a peaceful approach of so-called “one country, two systems.” Under this concept, slogans such as “the cross-strait reunification is not a future tense, but a present progressive one,” “the two sides of the strait are not unified into one but are with each other,” “to jointly create the future China,” “seeking common ground while preserving differences” etc. have been offered. However, based on the reality that the Mainland is powerful while Taiwan is small, and China’s failure to realize one country, two systems in Hong Kong, Taiwan believes the ultimate goal of the Mainland is to eliminate the ROC and achieve “one country, one system.” What’s more, 70 years after splitting, Taiwan’s younger generation’s affinity and willingness to reunify with the Mainland has weakened and establishing an independent “Republic of Taiwan” as operated by politicians further contaminates the situation.

In contrast, Korea has been a unified country for more than one thousand years. Its division was caused by a proxy war of foreign powers. After the split, South and North Korea each became a sovereign and independent country with similar size of territory. Even so, both sides have the same will to restore unification. A unified Korea with rich mineral resources, manpower, capital and technology will undoubtedly make a new Korea a strong power. But South Korea is worried that the economic downturn in Germany’s reunification process might happen in Korea as well. And South Korea’s goal of creating a single state system and eventually moving toward a unified constitution have threatened North Korea’s socialist dream and the rule of a communist regime.

In this case, the concept of “one country, two systems” which is not applicable to China might be a solution to consider for Korea’s reunification agenda. The difference is this approach does not have the purpose of unifying both sides immediately, but a gradual process of merging and transitioning to reduce impact. I call this a “modified German model” that might be an option for Korea’s reunification proponents to examine.



To go to the International Leadership Conference Schedule 2019, click here.