This study attempts to evaluate restructuring policies in East Germany during the period of German unification, as well as the analysis of case studies on corporate restructuring, and then suggests implications for the restructuring of North Korean companies in a unified Korea.
At the early stage of the unification, East Germany laid the foundation for restructuring at the initiative of the Treuhandanstalt (Trust Agency) via the complex division, the shift to an independent cooperation, business valuation and financial structure improvement; and then the private sector gradually took the lead in restructuring. Despite a sudden unification and worsened macroeconomic situation, East German companies were able to overcome the shocks occurring after the regime change in a relatively short period owing to intensive restructuring; even though their competitiveness had been very weak before the unification.
In spite of such positive views, however, several factors are pointed out that might hamper a smooth corporate restructuring in East Germany: the early situation of the unification process was not favorable for East German companies due to overestimated convesion rates and a delay in the writing off of old liabilities; management policies on East German companies radically shifted from the privatize-and- then-restructure strategy to the restructure-and-then-privatize strategy; and, accordingly, the corporate restructuring remained passive even after adopting the restructuring- and-later privatization strategy by the Trust Agency. In addition, the analysis of case studies on corporate restructuring shows that East German companies failed to secure growth engines despite intensive restructuring measures, not only due to internal factors (e.g. deepened dependency on a few industries and the lack of long-term growth strategy such as exploring a new business), but also structural and external factors (e.g. economic downturn and business recession). Although companies received funds for restructuring via bank loans and IPO, their debts dramatically increased because of excessive loans, thus failing to maintain the financial soundness by inefficiency in fund use. This implies that the efficient use of investments is a determinant factor for the success of financial improvement.
Given the current North Korean situation (e.g. aging industrial facilities, the low level of financial development and more foreign currency in circulation) along with the assessment of East German restructuring, we draw implications for the restructuring of North Korean companies in a unified Korea. First, the currency exchange rate should be set up considering North Korean companies’ weak financial situation and competitiveness, and old liabilities should be resolved early. Second, corporate restructuring should be mainly led by the government at an early stage of unification, thus laying the foundation for autonomous restructuring after privatization. Third, when the private sector leads restructuring after privatization, required are following factors: a dramatic improvement in cost structure, innovations for strengthening the role of markets, the stabilization of the financial structure, the facilitation of knowledge-sharing and the dynamic adjustment of business portfolio. Fourth, a joint public- private support system needs to be set up for a smooth restructuring though the cooperation between the South Korean government and the private sector including commercial banks, business partners in the same field and venture capital.