The fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the reunification of Germany has accelerated efforts to reunify North and South Korea, a Kansas University graduate and professor who teaches in South Korea says.
However, Korean reunification isn't likely to happen until political changes occur in North Korea, says Chang-hee Nam, lecture professor of political science at Yonsei University in Seoul.
"The South Korean government thinks the problem is in the North Korean power structure, they impede democracy," Nam said. "What South Koreans hope is feasible is that, first, there will be a development in North Korea to challenge the hard-liners and there is a movement toward democracy . . . and then South Korea can annex North Korea using the same model as the Germans."
Nam, who earned a doctorate from KU in October, is visiting Lawrence until Friday as part of a trip to the United States to study the presidential election.
DURING AN interview on Monday, he said a breakthrough in Korean relations came last year when the two nations signed a peace treaty declaring that they would not attack each other.
Relations have cooled since then, however, because South Korea has normalized relations with China, he said.
North Korea, with one of the last lard-line communist regimes still existing, feels that South Korea is trying to isolate it from its traditional allies, China and Russia, both of which have cut or eliminated aid to North Korea, he said.
Nam said North Korea is in a similar political position as is China: The leaders of both nations are very old, and observers expect a battle for power after they die.
In North Korea, a power vacuum may develop when Kim Il-Sung, the nation's 80-year-leader, dies.
Nam said most functions of the North Korean state have been taken over by KIm Il-Sung's son, Kim Chongil.
"THERE ARE many people in North Korea who stick to communism because they believe in Kim Il-Sung, Nam said. "Many North Koreans may become less loyal to the government when he dies."
Nam said that while South Korea remains economically strong, North Korea's economy is reaching the point of "crisis."
In fact, he said, rumors abound that workers in several North Korean cities have rioted in recent months because of conditions in the country.
North Korea has proposed a reunification measure that would create a "federation" between the two nations, in which their armies would be consolidated but political control would remain autonomous in the North and South, Nam said.
BUT HE SAID a more likely approach would be a "functional" one proposed by South Korea, whereby ties gradually would be strengthened through increased trade, cultural exchanges and open borders, which could facilitate democratic change in the north.
He said advantages of Korean reunification would be increased security and the ability of both nations to save large resources they now are spending on huge military budgets. He also said families that have been separated for decades could be reunited.
Nam said, however, that reunification would be costly.
"The South Koreans know they will be the first to pay their (North Korea's) bills," he said.