Everyone has his or her own prediction for Korean reunification. Futurologist George Friedman thinks it will happen before 2030 while Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group believes that reunification may be just around the corner. The CIA predicted that reunification will take place in 10-15 years – but that was in its global survey published in 2000. Oops!
The two Koreas live on different planets. North Korea remains autocratic while South Korea has become democratic. Social life south of the DMZ is modern and open to the world while life in the north is relatively isolated and parochial. In the economic realm, meanwhile, the two countries have experienced perhaps the greatest divergence. The gross national income of South Korea is now 44 times that of North Korea. The trade volume of the south is 144 times that of the north.
So, because of these stark political, social, and economic differences, the question of when the two countries will reunify is largely irrelevant. Government representatives from Pyongyang and Seoul met in mid-December and couldn’t agree on anything, not even on whether to meet again. For the time being then, forget about any discussions on reunification.
North Korea specialist Andrei Lankov argues that North Korea’s collapse will come unexpectedly, and South Korea should prepare for this eventuality. “Maybe the best way to describe this situation is to compare North Korea’s geopolitical neighborhood to a large city where disastrous earthquakes are known to be possible,” he writes for NK News. “In such a city, all responsible authorities should remember that another quake is likely, so all necessary preparations have to be made and all necessary plans have to be drafted and systematically kept up to date.”