The 8th Korea-Germany Forum, which was held in Dresden, Germany (October 16-18, 2009), served as an occasion to reinforce the solidarity of the two countries that have endured the pain of national division.
November 9, 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which had divided not only Germany but also the world into spheres of democracy and communism. On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany were formally united, less than a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The 8th Korea-Germany Forum held in Dresden, a new federal state within the territory of former East Germany. The host city served to emphasize the solidarity between Germany, which has since overcome division, and Korea, which is moving toward unification.Global Financial Crisis
Major topics of discussion included the global financial crisis, measures to deal with a declining birthrate and aging society, efforts to promote low carbon green growth, and prospects for closer cooperation between Korea and Germany. In addition, the participants exchanged thoughts of ways to resolve the North Korean nuclear situation and to promote regional cooperation in Northeast Asia.
A key concern of the Korean and German representatives was the global financial crisis and its serious impact on the world economy. With the economies of both countries being so highly dependent on foreign trade (Korea: 92.3 percent and Germany: 72.7 percent for trade-related economic activity, in 2008), Korea and Germany are especially sensitive to the global downturn in capital investment and consumer demand. More recently, in response to international and domestic recovery initiatives, the Korean economy appears to be on the rebound, while Germany’s economy was expected to resume its growth next year after overcoming a variety of difficult challenges. The participants agreed that it was urgent for the two countries to take steps to reduce their national debt, which had expanded sharply due to the financial crisis.
I t was also agreed that the two countries should support the joint efforts of advanced industrial economies to promote stability of the global financial market. The German side wholeheartedly welcomed the fact that Korea, which has enjoyed a quicker recovery from the economic slowdown than other counties, would be the host of the G20 summit gathering in 2010. The two sides expressed continued support for a Korea-EU FTA, along with taking note of the signing of a Korea- EU FTA on October 15, which marked a dramatic leap forward in the economic relations between Korea and Germany. It is anticipated that Germany, as a key economic partner of Korea, would greatly benefit from the conclusion of a Korea-EU FTA, which should yield substantial benefits for both Korea and Germany. Moreover, since a Korea- EU FTA could serve as a viable model to help realize regional cooperation within Northeast Asia, the participants recommended its earliest possible conclusion.
As for the security situation of Northeast Asia, the participants expressed grave concern that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and its second nuclear test have served to escalate tension in the region, along with representing a potential threat to world peace. The participants thus called for a resumption of the six-party talks and for North Korea’s earnest cooperation. In addition to supporting inter-Korean dialogue, they also stressed the need to systematically advance regional cooperation for the sake of Northeast Asia’s security and economic development. In this regard, it was recommended that Germany and EU members take steps to make available professional specialists who could contribute various expertise to the efforts to promote regional integration and cooperation.Demographic Trends
As a result of a declining birthrate and aging society, it was agreed that the two countries faced a common challenge of overcoming the consequences of these demographic trends. As such, there was in-depth discussion of various measures to boost birthrates and cope with the era of an elderly society, so as to reduce the strain on each country’s social security system, and not disrupt social cohesion and economic growth. Other problems related to this situation include a need to adjust the labor market, industrial structure, immigration policy, and integration measures, as well as foreign policy strategy.
In response to the trend of an aging society, the participants pointed to an urgent need to reinforce social infrastructure in order to satisfy the growing demands of senior citizens. They also called for efforts to better utilize the accumulated know-how and experiences of senior citizens and retirees, along with tapping the vast potential of the so-called “silver industry.”Academic Exchange
As f o r academic exchange, the participants discussed the current status and outlook for Korean Studies in Germany and German Studies in Korea. Along with applauding efforts of the Free University of Berlin to integrate the various Korean Studies programs in Germany, they expressed a critical need to expand the pool of country experts, within and outside the academic sector. Since both countries have shown a rather narrow interest in selected areas of each other’s society, like language and literature in particular, the participants called for further inclusion of Korean Studies and German Studies into regional studies, along with stepped up efforts to conduct comprehensive research on the two countries. I n addition, there is also a need to facilitate academic exchange among students and scholars through the provision of financial incentives, such as a waiver of tuition fees.
To encourage low-carbon and green growth endeavors, the participants noted that since economic interests and energy policy measures are closely intertwined, it is imperative for this relationship to be considered in policy implementation. Therefore, i t was stressed that efforts need to be focused on the formulation of cost-effective measures to address both economic and environmental considerations. Moreover, the participants identified key areas for two-way cooperation between Korea and Germany, in terms of economic and technological benefits, like the development of electric vehicles in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions. In addition, the participants also pointed to home-energy consumption as an area with vast potential in terms of energy-conservation measures. It is also necessary to discuss relevant regulations and standardization guidelines to assure effective cooperation between Korea and Germany in such green growth projects.
In conclusion, this year’s Korea-Germany Forum again confirmed the strong common bonds between the two countries. It was also readily apparent that Korea and Germany are being asked, even more than ever before, to actively participate in matters related to the world economy, as export-dependent countries, and to likewise contribute to the resolution of global problems as responsible members of the international community. Finally, the two sides agreed to conduct the ninth Korea-Germany forum in Korea, in 2010.