How did the Reunification of Germany Impact the World?

Table of Contents:

1. Impact the reunification gave to other countries that were also physically divided
2. How the news portrayed the reunification
3. Impacts the Reunification of Germany had on the Soviet Union and other communist nations
4. How Germany overcame the economic difference between the East and the West Germany

1. Impact the Reunification Gave to Other Countries


Historical Background on the Division of Korea:

The division of Korea into two different nations (North and South Korea) stems from 1945, when the Allies (Britain, France, US, Soviet Union) won the World War 2. This also led to an end of Japan's 35-year occupation in Korea. The USA and the Soviet Union agreed to temporarily occupy the country as a "trusteeship", with the zone of control divided along the 38th Parallel.

The Korean War (1950-1953) left the two Koreas separated along the 38th parallel, remaining technically at war through the Cold War to the present day. North Korea is a communist state (Soviet Union occupation). At first, its economy enjoyed some growth, but collapsed dramatically in the 1990s. On the other hand, South Korea became a capitalist liberal democracy (US occupation), and soon became one of the largest economies in the world.

So why? Why was Korea divided into two different nations? Well, as stated before, the USA and the Soviet Union decided to temporarily occupy the country after their victory in the WW2. However, with mistrust growing rapidly between the USA and the Soviet Union, no consent was reached on how to govern Korea. The USA and the UN (United Nations), passed a resolution that declared free elections should be held, foreign troops should be withdrawn, and a UN commission for Korea should be created. The Soviet Union, a communist nation, did not agree to these terms. This was why North and South Korea were divided along the 38th parallel, even to this day.

Hope the German Reunification had to the Citizens of Korea:

Although South Korea and Germany are linked by being one of the largest trading partners of each other, it is not just excellent business relations that binds these two countries together. They share a much deeper bond through their common knowledge and experience of what it felt like to be a politically and physically divided country. The difference between these two nations is that Germany was reunited in 1989 (see Fundamental information on the German Reunification for additional information), but a physical and political border still divides the communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea ever since the Korean War.

Germany serves these days as a model to many citizens in Korea, being a prototype of political reunification for North and South Korea as the two countries move toward rapprochement. As former President of South Korea, Kim Dae Jung, once said to a representative of Germany: "You are our role model."

So lets think of what would happen to Korea if they indeed became reunified by looking at some of the possible outcomes. How would it differ from the now united Germany?

PROs for immediate Reunification of Korea:
If the Korean Reunification had taken place, a united Korea could rapidly become a major Asian and world economic power. Currently, South Korea already has taken the title of the world's 11th largest GDP, boasting $24,600 per capita income (2007). North Korea has an abundance of natural resources such as ore, lead, and zinc that would increase in the prosperity of the economy. With South Korea's manufacturing based export economy, the united Korea would benefit tremendously.
The circumstances are completely different for Germany and Korea. The Korean Unification had been carefully planned for over decades of years; the German Unification occurred suddenly, an act of impulse. It could be said that the German Reunification served as a model of "things not to do" for Korea. Koreans are now keenly aware of the economic and political changes the unification will bring to the nation. However, the Germans were starry eyed with the end of the Cold War, and certainly wasn't expecting a unification. Moreover, North Korea is located in a dynamic, rapidly growing economic region with high savings and entrepreneurial spirit. When the reunification took place, Germany still bore the deadweight of social insurance scheme. A united Korea could use its new power and influence to become more assertive and proactive in world political and economic affairs.

Now let's look at some of the possible negative outcomes of the united Korea.

CONs for the immediate Reunification of Korea:
It would be simply indescribable if the unification of Korea would be as successful as the situation above. However, the Korean Reunification is not a simple matter. As Kay Möller of the Foundation for Science and Politics in Germany stated, "South Korea has finally drawn conclusions from German reunification: one cannot pull it off so quickly and in such a chaotic manner". He also added, "South Korea has drawn its lesson: ' if we do the same thing, we'll be ruined economically'".
So why had the hope sobered up so fast? It was not long ago that Korea had called Germany their "role model". Well, this is because of the economic factor that had plagued Germany after the reunification. Germany is still struggling with the immense costs of absorbing 5 poor Eastern German states. Germany still needs to inject billions annually in them to improve infrastructure and bring them up to the standards of the western states. This could be more of a difficult matter for Korea, for the gap between the economies of South and North Korea is 13 times more than the gap between East and West Germany.
Not only did the Reunification cause a slump in the economic growth in Germany, it also created unemployment, bankruptcies, and rising taxes. Millions of civilians living in East Germany flooded into the west, causing shortages of housings and foods.

The German Reunification had a tremendously large impact and influence on shaping the Korean Unification. Without the German Reunification, Korea would have probably been walking into the path of ruins, for they did not know which was a correct decision or not. As stated in the previous paragraph, a representative of Germany stated: "South Korea has drawn its lesson: ' if we do the same thing, we'll be ruined economically'". German Reunification proved itself to be a model which the South Korean citizens utilize to fix their plan of future reunification with North Korea.

South Korea Coat of Arms
North Korea Coat of Arms

A united Korea

2. How the news portrayed the Reunification

Here are a couple of sources which represent how the News portrayed the Reunification.

The first video is from CNN, 1990. This video portrays the Reunification as a great celebration, full of optimism and hope. Everyone in this video, from children to adults, rejoice in the possible bright future that laid ahead for Germany. Notice that this is a CNN station, meaning that Americans and basically everyone around the world was interested and overwhelmed by the German Reunification. This shows how much staggering impact the German Reunification had on the world.

And here is another portrayal of the German Reunification. In this article, it stated that the German Reunification could not have been slowed down, even if they had wanted to. Even the title of the article is contradicting the one above: "Any Alternatives?" Overall, this article talks about how if there were another alternatives for Germany in the 1990s. Was a Reunification really needed?

German unity: Any alternative?

3Impacts the Reunification of Germany had on the Soviet Union and other communist nations

The end of Communism

The USSR (Soviet Union) was unable to overcome the economic and social crisis that hit the country in the early 1980s. However, the Soviet
Symbol of the Soviet Union
System was not adaptable by itself and therefore, was doomed. The Soviet system did not have the full capacity to push the desired reforms through, and this triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pérestroïka could not change the structure of the Soviet economy, and thus served as an obstacle to reforms. All means of manufacturing and production were under government control, a fact which discouraged the participation of the private sector. In addition, the corrupt factory owners desired to keep the economic systems that afforded them considerable luxury and privilege. The Soviet system was “the economy that was steered as a pyramid of lies in which each plant, each terminal exaggerating its performance to the bodies situated below and above in the hierarchy.”
The political system, like the economy, rested on a foundation of lies. Political leaders from cities and regions fabricated domestic and foreign policy statistics, using propaganda, including the newspaper "Pravda" (Truth).
All of these corrupt doings within the Soviet system led to a quick destruction of the Soviet Union.
How? Well, Pérestroïka was ultimately the determining factor in the fall of the Soviet Union. Its freedom of speech had devoured the communist parties of Eastern Europe.

Now, let's see how the Soviet system fell in Germany.

"The unexpected downfall of the German Democratic Republic was triggered by the destruction of the other communist regimes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union" (Britannica Online) . The fall of the Berlin Wall initiated when a reformist Hungarian government in East Germany allowed East Germans to escape through Hungary's newly opened border with Austria. Soon, thousands of East Germans had followed this route and flooded into West Germany, and many more demanded in the West German Embassy that they be allowed in West Germany. Mass demonstrations and strikes in East Germany finally resulted in reforms.

4. How Germany Overcame the economic difference between the East and West Germany

At the time of the German Reunification, the East and the West German economies looked very similar. They both concentrated on industrial production (especially machine tools, chemicals, automobiles, etc.) Both had extremely well trained labor forces as well as a similar industrial production. However, East Germany was a highly centralized and guided by a detailed and precise planning system. Since East Germany was a communist nation, individuals within the East Germany did not have any private property or the right for decisions.
When the two Germanys become one nation in 1990, it was the first time in history that a capitalist and a socialist economy had become merged, and there were no precise guidelines on how it could be done. Instead, there were a number of problems, of which the most severe were the comparatively poor productivity of the former East German economy and its links to the collapsing socialist economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

So how did they manage to become one of the most powerful and richest country in the world?

Rebuilding East Germany's economy from obsolete industries and infrastructure was a painful process. However, it had created many opportunities. To help East Germany overcome the economic difference between the two Germanys, Germany needed to develop a stronger regional economic structure.
From year 2001 - 2005, West Germany had been sending 4% of their GDP annually (Wikipedia) . This was ineffective in making the Eastern Germany's economy productive. However, it did boost the living standards of the people who were living in East Germany.
By adopting the economic structure of the West Germany's, Eastern Germany was able to increase the amount of industries within their regional area. Although this meant that there were more taxes required for the Eastern Germans to pay, with the money that was sent from Western Germany, it was not as painful.

West German Flag (still used to the present day)
East German Flag