Tag Archive | "German Model"

Insights from German Unification: Dealing with Political Prisoners after Unification

With Germany marking the 25th anniversary of unification this is the fifth part of a five part series looking at insights from the German unification experience for the Korean peninsula. Part I on the challenges of integration can be found here. Part II on political unification can be found here. Part III on integrating the bureaucracy and the military can be found here. Park IV on the social challenges of unification can be found here.

By Troy Stangarone

During East Germany’s 41 years of the existence there were some 250,000 political prisoners. In contrast, the UN Commission of Inquiry’s report indicates that today there are between 80,000-120,000 political prisoners in North Korea whose statuses will need to be addressed once unification occurs.

In the case of Germany, the Treaty on German Unity laid out in Articles 17 and 18 that the decisions of courts handed down by East Germany should remain valid, but that Germans could seek to have the convictions overturned and that a process for the rehabilitation and compensation of political prisoners should be established. However, it was not until 2007 that Germany began providing compensation to political prisoners and it was restricted to low income individuals who had been imprisoned at least 180 days. Additionally, the compensation was limited to a monthly payment of 250 euros, which was increased to 300 euros at the beginning of 2015.

Given the large numbers of individuals held in camps and the regular prison system in North Korea a process will need to be developed to address their status in the short-to-medium term. Decisions will need to be made on what legal code to use in reviewing prisoner cases, what review process to use, and how decisions can be appealed. However, because not every prisoner may be innocent even by South Korean standards, simply releasing everyone from regular prisons or the camps will not be a viable option. Additionally, consideration should be given to a review of all prisoners in North Korea to determine if criminals have already fulfilled a reasonable sentence or if the conditions of the camps warrant a commutation of the remainder of a sentence.

While this process is going on, efforts will need to be made to improve the conditions of the prisoners, provide medical and mental health assistance, and address other needs they may have.  Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is likely present among the North Korean prison populations. Prisoners would need to be screened and treated for MDR-TB to prevent spreading the disease further into North and South Korea.  In addition, a determination will need to be made on whether compensation will be provided and how best to integrate them back into society and the workforce as they may have special needs beyond the average North Korean.

The issue of political prisoners also has an international dimension. Foreign firms that did business with East Germany either knowingly or unknowingly used labor from political prisoners. The most famous case is Ikea, which admitted in 2012 to having used prison labor in East Germany and agreed to provide compensation. At the time, Ikea paid the East German government directly, but the money would often simply be pocketed by the government and not reach the workers. In the Korean case, a medium term issue will be determining if the government should pursue foreign firms that may have used forced labor for compensation, and more specifically whether Korea should reach a separate understanding with China on this issue as the largest trading partner with North Korea. Additionally, this issue also extends to the 1800 contract workers who have been sent abroad to earn the regime hard currency.

Lastly, consideration should be given to issues that arise from unification if it does not follow the relatively peaceful model of Germany. While South Korea will need to seek assurances that the prisoners will not be harmed during the process of peaceful unification, if North Korea were to collapse into a state of violence through a civil war or if a low scale rebellion were to break out during the process, steps would need to be taken quickly to ensure the protection of the prisoners as  North Korean prison officials may seek to avoid prosecution by destroying evidence — including the ability of victims’ to testify against them.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Matthew Cook’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

 

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Insights from German Unification: The Social Challenges of Unification

With Germany marking the 25th anniversary of unification this is the fourth part of a five part series looking at insights from the German unification experience for the Korean peninsula. Part I on the challenges of integration can be found here. Part II on political unification can be found here. Part III on integrating the bureaucracy and the military can be found here. Part V on dealing with political prisoners can be found here.

By Troy Stangarone

One of the most difficult internal challenges Korea will face after unification is integrating the North Korean population into South Korean society. At the time when East and West Germany united, a significant amount of interaction between the two societies had taken place and for some there was the memory of living within a market economy and democracy from the time of the Weimar Republic, despite that period’s flaws. In the case of Korea, the two societies have had significantly less interaction. Beyond the limited family number of family reunions, the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, and pirated South Korean media, the North Korean population has essentially been isolated from South Korean society. As a result, the social gap after unification is likely to be larger than the two Germanys faced.

After unification, North Koreans will find themselves in a society very different than the one they know. The new society will have a different set of values and norms based in individual rights, democracy, and a market based economic system. On a basic level, North Koreans will face deficits with their South Korean counterparts in terms of education and health. As they try to navigate these challenges they will find that the Korean language has evolved differently on each side of the DMZ. All of this will make finding gainful employment more difficult, while fitting into society will be challenging as simple things taken for granted in the South, such as how to use the internet or drive a car, will be foreign to most North Koreans other than the elite. Many who have survived in North Korea have done so by breaking the rules or engaging in activities, such as the markets, whose legal status has been uncertain at times will now have to adjust to a society where they will be expected to follow the rules.

These difficulties can be seen in both the experience of Germany over the last quarter century and the challenges faced by North Koreans who have escaped to the South. When Germany integrated, East Germans faced a host of challenges. Not only did they have to adjust to an entirely different system and ideological perspective related to democracy and a market economy, they faced new challenges such as dealing with unemployment and social relations that were based in money. They also had to adjust to things that Westerners take for granted such as the need to have insurance and the workings of a banking system, while adjusting in a world where tensions between the two sides would manifest through demeaning comments such as West Germans saying they had moved to the colonies.

Unification left the two societies existing in parallel. This divide, or mental wall between the two peoples, in recent years a sense of nostalgia for the former GDR has developed, often referred to as Ostalgie. Having been socialized in the East German system, many East Germans came to look back on the old system with either fondness or maintain some of its ways of thinking.

Even the young faced challenges adjusting to the new society. Unification had brought a tension between the two dominant ideologies of the East and the West as individualism and collectivism were partially incompatible. In the case of East Germany, while young adults adopted Western values, they did not necessarily internalize them as “the new generation born after the reunification of Germany still shares, albeit to a significantly smaller extent, the behavior models and mindsets which developed in the generations of their grandparents and parents”. An early study done on East German attitudes found that a plurality of East Germans and West Germans identified more with their original system than the new unified Germany. East Germans were also less likely to see Germany’s market based values as a source of security.

Even two decades after unification cultural differences still exist. The East and West share different views of religion and social issues such as abortion. They have different views of the role of women in society, with Easterners being more progressive about the role of women. How they define professional success remains different, and even small things such as how one is greeted or the nature of small talk maintain differences.

While North Koreans do have access to information about the South through movies and DVDs, for example, remnants of the old system will likely remain in their thinking and world view as they transition to a new society. Managing these differences, while providing the necessary skills and tools to North Koreans to adjust, will be a critical issue as unification proceeds. Additionally, as the experience of young German’s demonstrates, social and cultural integration will be a multi-generational process rather than a process that takes place in a single lifetime.

As mentioned, integrating North Koreans into South Korean society poses a range of questions. Beyond the experience of Germany, there is also the experience of North Korean defectors in South Korea which can provide some insight into the challenges North Koreans will face in integrating into South Korean society.

While there have been some successes, especially among former members of the elite, many defectors struggle to integrate into South Korean society. Despite the support from the South Korean government and programs designed to help defectors integrate into society, North Koreans still face a series of impediments to full integration into South Korean society. These impediments can largely be broken into five categories: cultural/ideological, professional, personal, psychological, and social prejudice. Though, many of these impediments overlap, such as decisions to live alone in South Korea that can impact personal happiness but also have a psychological root.

For many North Koreans, arriving in South Korea can be a culture shock as the norms and values they grew up with are challenged by those in the South. While many in North Korea are poor, they grow up in a largely communal environment and are unprepared for the individualistic nature of Korean society, especially the value it places on money. Having grown up in a society that espoused the values of collectivism and egalitarianism, North Koreans tend to live alone wanting to experience their own independence.

The collectivist nature of North Korean society and its indoctrination tends to lead to North Koreans to be more communal and group oriented in their view of how to handle problems and their thinking can be rigid. This leads defectors to perceive the world in black and white and a communal manner, in contrast to the individualist nature of South Korean society. At the same time, the egalitarian ideals that are propagated in the North can leave them with a sense of unfairness in regards to how their situation is handled in South Korea.

Despite the challenges defectors have faced integrating into South Korean society, a note of caution is needed about examining the experience of North Koreans who have defected to South Korea and extrapolating their experience to how all North Koreans would react to unification. The defectors by definition are a self-selecting group and may not be representative of the North Korean population as a whole.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Doug’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Insights from German Unification: Integrating the Bureaucracy and the Military

With Germany marking the 25th anniversary of unification this is the third part of a five part series looking at insights from the German unification experience for the Korean peninsula. Part I on the challenges of integration can be found here. Part II on political unification can be found herePart IV on the social challenges of unification can be found herePart V on dealing with political prisoners can be found here.

By Troy Stangarone

While it is natural for there to be a desire for justice after a regime such as North Korea’s collapses, practical matters often intervene.  This is something Germany has experienced twice, both after the end of Nazi Germany and during unification in 1990 with different lessons from each experience. In the case of the transition from the Nazi regime, the Federal Republic of Germany’s first chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, noted their exclusion from public life needed to end by remarking that, “the machine has to operate”.

As Germany was preparing for unification in 1990, it was hoped that Western administrators would only need to play a short term role in restructuring the East. However, it soon became clear that their expertise would be needed on a long term basis. As a result, Germany placed West Germans in high level political and bureaucratic positions in the East to make up for the knowledge gaps. However, this led to its own problems. West German officials had little interest in learning about the problems in the East. In addition, the East Germans were all now in subordinate positions and because of the structural reforms undertaken to make the East German bureaucracy similar to that in the West there was little room for substantive contributions from the Eastern experience. Additionally, since East German bureaucrats were hired for loyalty rather than competence they were not always qualified for jobs in the new bureaucracy.

More generally, almost all of the top East Germans were removed from their position. For the most part West Germany tried not to lay off civil servants and those who worked for parts of the bureaucracy that were eliminated were often given a chance to find work at another agency. However, they could be laid off if: they had engaged in Stasi activities, an institution was eliminated, there was overstaffing, they had committed human rights violations or broken another law, or they lacked the necessary qualifications.

However, not all bureaucracies were handled the same. In the case of the education system, essentially all of the teachers of the former GDR were maintained while the system was reformed to reflect the West’s education system. All of the former foreign ministry officers were let go, as were the former Stasi officials. Former Stasi officials were barred from public positions. The East German police were required to have their political and professional history examined before being allowed back into the police service. As their East German training was often not recognized in the West, they were moved further down the ranks.

The East German military, the National Volksarmee or NVA, was disbanded upon unification. Any officer or soldier over the age of fifty-five was immediately let go from the military and those who were retained often had specialist skills required to maintain East German equipment. Integrating officers of the NVA into the West Germany military was difficult because they were seen as having sided with the enemy, the Soviet Union, and being the reason for the division of Germany.

If the German case is reflective of the challenges that Korea will face upon unification, efforts to improve the level and quantity of talent in the unified Korean bureaucracy will be essential. While maintaining as many North Koreans as possible to limit unemployment and resentment, as seen in more recent transitions such as Iraq, will be important, the quality of North Korean officials may not be very high. There may also be a need to design incentives to try to attract qualified private sector individuals form the South into the public sector as well. At the same time, the insights of former North Korean officials may be necessary to help smooth the transition in the North.

While the abilities of North Korean bureaucrats may not be high, there will also likely be integration issues relating to the slowing of career advancement by former North Korean officials in the new system, or as is the case of the military, strong push back against working with individuals that may be seen has having played a key role in maintaining the division of the peninsula.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Nico Trinkhaus’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

 

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Insights from German Unification: Political Integration on the Korean Peninsula

With Germany marking the 25th anniversary of unification this is the second part of a five part series looking at insights from the German unification experience for the Korean peninsula. Part I on the challenges of integration can be found here. Part III on integrating the bureaucracy and the military can be found herePart IV on the social challenges of unification can be found herePart V on dealing with political prisoners can be found here.

By Troy Stangarone

After the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, the political unification of the two German states did not occur for nearly a year and only after free elections in East Germany had taken place. West Germany insisted on elections to legitimize the East German government prior to providing it with financial assistance needed to stabilize the country. The results of these elections would shape the process of unification.

In the first and only free elections in the German Democratic Republic’s history East Germans, voted for political parties that ran on a platform of unification. Having received a mandate to unify with the West, the new East German government engaged in talks with the West that in a short period of time outlined the terms under which the two states would achieve unification. The decision was made for the Lӓnder of East Germany to accede to the West Germany political entity and for the political institutions of West Germany to be graphed onto the former East German states. Their bureaucratic agencies would be remodeled to be compatible with those in the West.

However, while much of the West was implanted in the East and a process of transitional justice was undertaken to remove former officials from office, the process of political transition did not lead to a ban of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) which had led East Germany during Communism. In the run up to the March 1990 elections, the SED underwent a series of internal reforms and renamed itself the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). In time, the PDS would become the modern Left Party of Germany. The Left Party, while shunned by the major parties in Germany on the national level, is currently the third largest party in the Bundestag after having received 8.6 percent of the vote in 2013. In addition to the successor parties to the SED carrying on, some of the key figures from the days of the SED continued  in politics, such as Hans Modrow, who was prime minister prior to the free elections in March and went on to serve in both the German Parliament and the European Parliament.

While East Germans voted to join West Germany, one of the lingering issues is that they were not consulted on how the process should take place. This discontent is reflected in differences in the political cultures. In Germany, the political culture of the East has had difficulty adapting to the system. For example, both Germanys have a history of social welfare, but East Germans view social welfare as a structural component of the state, while for West Germans it is a political issue for the incumbent party to address. At the same time, turnout in the new federal states has decreased at a quicker rate than the western states, while there has also been more receptiveness to radical views in the political process.

The German experience raises a number of political questions for Korean unification. Regardless of whether there is a negotiated unification as in Germany or a complete collapse of the state that precludes a negotiated unification, should North Koreans be given a say on whether they join the Republic of Korea? East Germans voted for political parties in favor of unification, but should North Koreans be given more choice on how the process of unification takes place? One option would be to allow North Koreans to choose between accession, confederation, or independence. At the same time, should South Koreans also be given a choice in the matter?

If North Koreans are given a vote, a census will likely be need. This will take time and raises the question of whether in the case of a non-negotiated unification North Korea should be placed under a South Korean administered UN Trusteeship or modern equivalent. If collapse occurs the North may not be in a situation to hold a vote for a period of time before the reconstitution of society and the economy to a certain extent. A trusteeship would allow North Korea some space to restore stability and order, while also protecting South Korean equities. It would also allow the process of transition to begin on legal, economic, and political levels. At the same time, a vote on North Korea’s future would help to legitimize the democratic process in the North and set a precedent that decisions should be made in a democratic fashion.

Another question may be the future of the Korean Workers Party. As in the case of the SED, will it be allowed to reform itself and to remain a political party in the new Korea? If so, what officials would be able to run for office? Within 15 years of unification, an East German, Angela Merkel, became German Chancellor. Certain officials, such as Kim Jong-un, should be excluded from future political roles regardless of how unification comes about, but in the case of a negotiated unification or collapse determinations will need to be made on if all former party officials should be banned from political office or only those who have attained a certain level of political stature or have been guilty of crimes against humanity.

When unification takes place on the Korean peninsula, the process of political unification will be highly contingent upon the circumstances that brings about unification. The answers to the questions raised here about the political futures of individuals in the North will be significantly different if unification is achieved through a negotiated process or through complete collapse or conflict. Still, some insights into which officials should be allowed to remain might be seen in how Germany handled the integration of the two countries bureaucracies.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Bankenverband – Bundesverband deutscher Banken’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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