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Experts say Korean unification will cost over US$3 trillion
SEOUL, Sept. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's economic experts believe the country needs to immediately start saving up for unification with impoverished North Korea that will cost at least 3,500 trillion won (US$3 trillion), a recent survey of experts released Tuesday showed.

   Most of the experts also said the divided Koreas will likely be reunified within the next 30 years, according to the survey conducted by the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), the largest business lobby in South Korea.

   The questions raised by the FKI came after President Lee Myung-bak proposed introducing a new "unification tax," which he said will help lessen the financial burden of reuniting with the communist North.

   Of the 20 experts surveyed, 63.1 percent said the reunification of the two Koreas will cost more than that of Germany, about $3 trillion. The amount includes the initial costs of stabilizing the nation following a reunification, but also the costs of eradicating any economic and social disparities between the two Koreas.

   Half of the respondents said the country needed to begin discussing ways to pay such enormous costs of reunification, while 20 percent said such discussions must begin immediately.

   "It also showed every respondent saw the need for such discussions as no one answered such discussions were unnecessary," FKI said in a press release.

   None of the respondents said the reunification will take place within the next five years, but 95 percent, or 19 out of the people surveyed, said the two Koreas will likely be unified before 2040.

   They all agreed the unification with North Korea will be a great burden on the South Korean economy in its near future, but a great opportunity in the long term.

   bdk@yna.co.kr
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