The countries have set up a joint committee in the South Korean capital Seoul to help prepare for the daunting task: Everything from dealing with differences in transport infrastructure to helping integrate vastly different economies.
“We are beginning to intensify our own preparations for a reunification on a large scale,” said South Korean Unification Minister Yoo Woo Ik, adding that Germany could offer “an invaluable treasure of experience for us Koreans.”
The idea is to learn from Germany’s difficult experience of integrating its formerly communist eastern half after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The process has cost billions of euros, and remains incomplete more than two decades later.
Although West Germany was significantly more economically developed than East Germany, the differences between South and North Korea – divided since the end of the Korean war in 1953 – are even starker.
The North, led by mercurial dictator Kim Jong-Il is a bitterly poor and isolated Stalinist country while the South has become a regional economic success in recent years.
Nonetheless no country, other than Germany, has before confronted the challenges the Koreans would face in joining two hugely disparate economies and ways of life.
It’s not clear when Korean reunification might happen, although experts have long said that the North is teetering on the edge of economic and political collapse.
The German-South Korean committee met for the first time this week and is slated to meet again in 2012.