Can North Korea save the South?

“Unification will allow the Korean economy to take a fresh leap forward and inject great vitality and energy,” Park told Bloomberg News on Jan. 10. “People would even sing, ‘We dream of unification even in our dreams.’”

The idea isn’t as dippy as it sounds. Economists generally rate Park’s first year in office as a dud. She arrived at the presidential Blue House with big talk of building a more “creative” economy. Yet her plans to empower small- and medium-size companies and to rein in the family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, that dominate the economy remain embryonic.

As her second year begins, Park must accelerate efforts to restructure Korea’s outdated and top-heavy growth model. Folding unification into the strategy is audacious. In theory, combining the South’s capital and technology with the North’s human and natural resources could create a powerful growth engine.

Of course, this entire discussion hinges on Kim’s willingness to remove the soldiers, artillery and barbed wire that continue to line the demilitarized zone.