(Refiles, correcting dateline)
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SEOUL, Sept 21 (Reuters) - A united Korea -- combining Asia's fourth biggest economy with one of its poorest -- could surpass that of Germany or Japan in economic might in the next 30-40 years, U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs said on Monday.
In the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean War, the North's economy developed more quickly, but in the past few decades South Korea has emerged as an economic powerhouse while the North has become a backwater with an annual GDP of $17 billion in 2008 -- two percent the size of the South's economy.
South Korea is one of the world's most wired countries whereas North Korea has few computers, almost no Internet access outside the capital Pyongyang and teaches students about the Web by showing them photocopied papers of monitor displays.
The South has about 20 nuclear power plants while the North relies on an electrical grid mostly built during Japan's 1910-45 colonial occupation of Korea and cannot produce enough power to keep the lights on at night.
South Korean estimates have said it would cost $1 trillion or more to absorb the North in the event of reunification.
There are almost no economic or cultural contacts between the two Koreas, as there were in East and West Germany before unification that could help cushion the blow.
Here is a look at the vast difference between the two Koreas:
South Korea North Korea
Population 2008 48.6 million 23.3 million
Life expectancy 78.72 years 63.81 years
74.45 for males 61.23 males
82.22 for females 66.53 females
Mobile phone subscribers 46.5 million 20,000
Paved roads 2008 104,236 km 25,802 km
Auto production 2008 3.83 million 4,700
Trade value 2008 $857 billion $3.8 billion
Exports 2008 $422 billion $1.1 billion
State budget 2007 $168 billion $3.2 billion
Military 670,000 troops 1.18 million
Rice yield 2008 4.84 mln tonnes 1.86 mln tonnes
Steel production 2008 53.32 mln tonnes 1.28 mln tonnes (Sources: CIA World Factbook, Bank of Korea) (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz, Kim Junghyun, Rhee So-eui, Seo Eunkyung and Jonathan Thatcher)