Reunification 'Would Bring Mass Migration South'

      December 05, 2014 10:59

      Some 1.8 million North Koreans would move south immediately if the two Koreas are reunified, and unemployment would soar to 50 percent, a study suggests.

      Kim Bo-min at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy during a seminar in Seoul on Thursday explained the alarming findings of a joint study with Germany's Halle Institute for Economic Research.

      Kim said the study suggests 7.3 to 7.6 percent of North Korea's 24 million people would immediately settle in the South following reunification. In Germany, 2.5 percent of the East German population of 16 million moved to West Germany after reunification, but migration slowed drastically two years later. 

      North Korean migration to South Korea would probably follow a similar pattern.

      A large number of North Korean laborers would lose their jobs after reunification, which could temporarily send the unemployment rate to 30 to 50 percent. Kim urged the government to prepare job training and other proactive labor policies, just as Germany did.

      A detailed development assistance plan is needed to get the North's economy on track, rather than simply waiting for the capitalist system to take root once the border is open.

      Maike Irrek, a researcher at the Halle Institute, added Germany's potential economic growth rate took a temporary hit due to reunification, but the gains were far greater starting in the early 2000s. She said Korea too would reap the benefits of reunification if it is able to overcome initial teething problems. 

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