Writing at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Robert Farley linked to some interesting efforts being made to plan for Korean reunification. Reacting to this conference report, one Robert Kelly took issue with the idea that reunification could be managed as anything but a wholesale and terrible expensive takeover of the North by the South, on account of the North Korean state's lack of legitimacy compared to South Korea.
This will bring about numerous issues, especially he notes in regards to migration issues.
Getting NK up to speed ASAP is also necessary to forestall a massive migration southward with consequent North Korean ghettoes emerging around Southern cities and all the crime, resentment, and pseudo-identity politics that would create. The likely food shortages alone will probably drive Northerners southward. USFK/ROKA ideas of air-dropping food into North Korea are band-aids, and notions of a green revolution to improve NK agricultural production will take several years to fall into place. But the obvious attraction of Southern lifestyles will be the true driver as it was in Germany, a point I am surprised was not made in the report.
It is worth noting how much internal migration there was in unified Germany. Pusan National University had a German speaker on this issue of post-unification migration. He noted that it was 20% of the entire ex-GDR population, slowed only by moving the capital to the east, an option a unified Korea would not likely entertain. I have written this up on my blog (October 22, 2010), and the Project might like to contact the speaker.
Migration-deterring notions like an internal passport or temporary work permits for Northerners in the South would appear terribly immoral, suggest North Koreans are second-class citizens, embarrass Korea before global opinion, and fire revanchist Northern political entrepreneurs. Once the DMZ is open, it will be politically near-impossible to reclose it without North Korea turning into something like the West Bank, a semi-occupied wild west zone in legal limbo, or a gigantic SEZ for the chaebol. Either way, it would appear so immoral before global opinion, and ‘illegal internal immigration’ would be so persistent, that I cannot imagine it will work.
I've blogged here about South Korea's emergent status as a country of immigration, at least as early as September 2009 and most recently earlier this month. The idea that North Korea may become a major source of immigrants is something that makes perfect sense to me, given the dysfunction in the North as contrasted to the prosperity in the South and assuming the reunification of the Korean peninsula--as I wrote in March 2010, very many North Koreans will want to head south. I've also written in November 2010 about how the contrast between a relatively multicultural South and a North that prides itself on ethnic purity may already be complicating intra-Korean relations, and may complicate relations significantly if Korea is reunified.
South Korea, as I noted, is becoming a place that people are moving to. North Korea, in the 21st century, is going to be a place that people are from. I don't think economic convergence with the south if reunification occurs is going to proceed at anything like the speed necessary for anything but the maintenance of the inter-Korean border to prevent large-scale migration south. As I noted in March 2010, North Koreans can go elsewhere, too, whether to adjacent China, Russia, Japan or points beyond. Last September here in Toronto, local news media covered the mass wedding of 15 refugee couples from North Korea at Toronto City Hall--see the tabloid Toronto Sun and the broadsheet Toronto Star for examples.