SEOUL (Reuters) - The cost of reunifying the two Koreas, split since shortly after World War Two, would tot up to about 3,500 trillion won ($3 trillion), the Federation of Korean Industries said on Tuesday.
Not one of 20 economists surveyed by the federation expected reunification in the next five years but almost half said it would happen in 10 to 20 years.
Nearly half also said the largest cost associated with reunification would be in efforts to cut the wealth gap between the wealthy South and the impoverished North.
“The costs to minimize the gap between South and North Korea over the long-term are expected to be greater than the initial cost of reunification,” the federation said in its report.
South Koreans earn an average about $19,230 a year while North Koreans earned about $1,065 in 2008, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
Concerns about the costs prompted South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to propose a “reunification tax” last month.
“In the short term the shock to the Korean economy will be great but in the long-term reunification will be positive,” the survey said.
The two Koreas are still technically at war as hostilities in 1950-53 Korean War conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.