I first became aware of – and indeed interested in – the Confederal Republic of Koryo thirteen years ago when a Korean colleague asked me to help edit the explanation for his guides. This was many years ago, but I am glad to see my edits still made the cut!
Also with the relative detente between the Koreas – but also with the USA – the prospects and interest in a unified Korea has indeed intensified. The question is, what would “one Korea” look like?
The German Model
Many countries have been reunified, each with their own process and stories, which vary greatly, as we have detailed in this blog.
The West generally assumes that any future reunification would follow the “German Model”, whereby the North Korean regime would collapse and be incorporated into the Republic of Korea.
For obvious reasons this is not the view of the DPRK, who indeed have their own view on how reunification could and should work.
Another commonly held misconception, probably due the Korean War, is that people assume the North wishes to unify the country under communism, but again this is not necessarily the case.
Why the Confederal Republic of Koryo?
In 1980, President Kim Il Sung set a policy to create a neutral federal republic, whereby both sides would keep their own political systems and governments, but have a common federal parliament and government. Which would then be known as the Democratic Confederal Republic of Koryo (DCRK) — Koryo being the traditional name of Korea.
Since then some translations have dropped the democratic part, so it is now generally called the Confederal Republic of Koryo (CRK), but with the general idea remained largely the same.
Now, whilst this is the view of North Korea, various people in the South have also expressed interest in an initial federal solution, which would lead to an eventual full reunification.
One thing that has also been suggested is a kind of Korean Economic Union, maybe with parallels to the European Union. There is precedence with this, with both the jointly run Kaesong Joint Industrial Complex, and the Mt Kumgang Tourist Region. Alas, the later is no longer in operation after a tourist from the South was shot – but it does offer an interesting insight into what could happen.
No one quite knows what the future holds, or indeed what a unified Korea might look like, but it is nice to have this as a talking point, rather than nuclear war…