Historical Social Research

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Lars Vogel & Heinrich BestPolitical Elites in Transition and Unification: German Lessons for the Korean Peninsula? [Abstract]

The following paper investigates the role of political elites in the prelude to and trajectory of German transition and re-unification since 1989 and takes it as a point of departure to identify experiences transferable to the situation on the Korean peninsula. Thereby it builds upon the German experience and contextualises it within the international research on elite theory and political transition in order to distinguish between general results and those specific to Germany. The structures of North and South Korean elites as well as changes in these structures will be analysed in order to identify similarities and differences vis-à-vis developments in Germany. Lastly, in light of these underlying conditions some conclusions will be drawn concerning potential future developments in North Korea, thereby assessing the transferability of German findings as well as their potential for generalisation. In methodological terms, this paper is a comparison between Germany and Korea, albeit with an asymmetric comparative perspective, in the sense that the trajectory of transformation and re-unification is well-known in the case of Germany, while considerable uncertainty persists with regard to possible scenarios for the Korean peninsula.

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