The Economist has covered Lee Myung-Bak, South Korea’s President, statements suggesting that “reunification will happen” with the North.
While it is unclear what these statements mean, it reminds me of early statements in the thawing of relations near the end of the Cold War and makes me think there may be similar, yet updated, roles for us to play in the Government 2.0 movement.
Two main points:
1) Much of the thaw in Cold War days was due to Eastern Bloc countries and their citizens being exposed to cultural freedoms that had been taken for granted by the West. For inst5ance, rock and roll played a major role in giving folks a view of what was possible if the Iron Curtain were to fall. Similarly here, the potential for the North to see a wide array of openness and citizen-centric systems could generate positive buzz from North to South. From basics of trains running efficiently to citizens having access to public platforms for policy conversations may help to nudge folks toward reunification;
2) Service Delivery versus Government as a Platform: Here is the real opportunity. As the size of income disparity is huge, if reunification were to happen the pressure on the Korean Government would be enormous. The new country would have to treat Government as a Platform to succeed. This may be the best test case for regional cooperation that we could ask for. Developing an investment analysis that allowed the North and South to agree on where to invest in robust platforms, where to commoditize services and how to best leverage the private, non-profit and NGO communities who care could all work together to build an investment model for modern governments.
In short, I think this is an incredible opportunity. Even if it is simply political talk right now, we should take the opportunity to press forward with our mission to provide more open government and government2.0 platforms. Worst case, it just makes South Korea a better country and best case, the potential for a reunified peninsula.