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Korean reunification remains 'distant dream': China expert

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BEIJING, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- The reunification of South and North Korea remains a "distant dream" as the gamesmanship of the Cold War still rages on the Korean Peninsula, a Chinese expert said Wednesday.

South Korea could look to Germany as a good example of reunification, but Cai Jian, vice director of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University, argued that the legacy of Cold War is posing a major obstacle for the Koreas to achieve the dream of reunification.

"In the German reunification, the Soviet Union, a traditional ally of East Germany, was wrapped up in its disintegration crisis and consequently unable to provide potent support for East Berlin, making it all the easier for Bonn to unify the country with overwhelming superiority," Cai wrote in an op-ed piece published by China's state-run Global Times newspaper.

"In comparison, the Korean Peninsula is still shrouded by the legacy of the Cold War and regional stakeholders including China, the U.S., Russia and Japan stay in fierce competition," the expert said.

"The Korean reunification has never been a matter between two nations but an international issue involving the overall Northeast Asian strategic architecture," Cai said.

The two Koreas are still technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a cease-fire, and reunification with North Korea seems very distant, given the lingering tension over the North's nuclear weapons ambition.

North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un executed his uncle-by-marriage, Jang Song-thaek, last month in a dramatic political purge, sparking fears of instability in the North's leadership. Concerns have grown over the direction in which the unpredictable leader will take the nuclear-armed nation.

However, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in her New Year address earlier this month, expressed a firm commitment to unification with North Korea, saying it would be a "jackpot" for all Koreans and an opportunity for "our economy to make a great leap forward."

While the execution of Jang has relaunched some debate in South Korea about the likelihood of reunification, Cai pointed out that enthusiasm for reunification for South Korea's young people is declining amid worries over its economic impact.

"A complicated domestic situation also plagues the two Koreas. West Germany had made every preparation for the reunification process before 1990, but in sharp contrast, support for reunification among South Koreans has been faltering recently," Cai said.

"According to polls, 71 percent of the South Korean public wanted reunification in 1997, the number fell down to 57 percent in 2010 and only 25 percent were unswerving in fulfilling this long-standing cause by 2013," the expert said.

"In conclusion, given the unchanged mindset across the external world and the changing landscape in the two Koreas, a reunified Korean Peninsula will remain a distant dream," Cai said.

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