Can Korea learn from the Berlin Divide as a Precedent?

One Country Divided, Times Two?

When one thinks about the separation of North and South Korea, they should automatically connect this divide to the Berlin Wall and the contextual factors surrounding the divide as a significant precedent to how Korea can unify as one and what Korea would need to consider. I believe the two divides are very similar, in which the Berlin divide was caused by a clash of political ideologies between neighboring countries, and Korea was divided due to the influence of the Soviets and the United States. I will take the time to quickly summarize / analyze how each divide occurred, and follow up with their respective implications, including how the Berlin Divide can be used as a precedent to provide ideas for Korea and how it can facilitate their reunification.

Context to Each Divide


sourceBerlin started separating in the beginning of 1945, following the collapse of Germany. Ultimately, the country was broken down into four zones, where each zone was controlled by a superpower. After reparation agreements between the Soviets and the western zone, the French, British, and American zone merged in 1947.

The Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc portrayed the wall as protecting its population from fascist elements that are conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in buildings a state of socialism in East Germany. In actuality, the wall was built to stop people of East Berlin from escaping to West Berlin, and cull the surge in emigration and defection during the post-World War II period.

What did Korea do Wrong?

Initially, Korea as a whole was intended to become a Communist State when the Soviet Union fought Japan, who was occupying Korea at the time. After Korea was liberated on 1945, it was intended to be completely communist with Kim il Sung as the leader, who was a soldier in the Soviet Army. Great Britain and the United States opposed this, and all three agreed to divide Korea and govern the nation for 5 years. The Korean War started when North Korea intended on taking over the peninsula, crossing over the 38th Parallel and invading the non-Communist South Korea, with the help of Soviet tanks.


sourceFrankly, Korea didn’t really do anything wrong. Even before the Soviet Union and the United States got involved, Korea was under the occupation of Japanese forces. In the book, The New Koreans, Michael Breen claims that reunification is inevitable, and the Koreans want it and will not ask for permission. In order to explain why Germany had to ask neighboring countries for permission, Breen quotes a German official that expresses the situation quite accurately; “While we Germans were divided after the war because of our sin, the Koreans were divided because of their innocence.”

Capitalism vs. Communism


sourceThe United States and the Soviet Union mainly differ over their economic or political system between capitalism and communism. The Soviet Union opposed the private ownership of companies in the capitalism model. Both communism and capitalism are political and economic systems, but with different ideologies.

Capitalism Communism
Services, trade, and industries are privately owned. Equal sharing of work and wealth.
Citizens retain their right to start their own business or market, make their own profit, and employ workers. Not everyone is willing to work, but everyone still earns the same amount of money.
More individual liberty, social differences, inequality, and social classes. Attracted by poorer and unmotivated individuals, as communism presents a more ideal world where its all ready for you.

What Factors led to German Reunification?

One of the most important aspects that North Korea should adopt is to incite peaceful protest. For the Berlin Reunification, the citizens of East Germany displayed a will to fight back and escape. It began when Hungary began to disassemble the electric fence around their country lines, and 13,000 East Germans escaped, refusing to leave the West Germany embassy. This led to the Peaceful Revolution, where as many as half a million people gathered to demand political change.


sourceThis presents a problem for North Korean citizens, as they are essentially under a religion, where Kim Jong Un is their God. For someone that is looked at as a God, it understandably would be very difficult to fight this higher power, as they have been conditioned into believing specific things, true or false. I feel confident that among these peaceful relations between Moon Jae In and Kim Jong Un, and the gradual exposure the North Korean citizens are receiving about the outside world would lead to the next Peaceful Revolution.