A government survey released this week highlighted the need for more effective and systematic education about unification to give students a more positive perception of a reunified Korea.
In the survey of 116,000 students at 200 elementary, middle and high schools across the country, 53.5 percent said unification was necessary, followed by 26.1 percent who showed a neutral attitude. Nearly 20 percent replied unification was unnecessary.
It was particularly notable that the proportion of students in favor of unification decreased from 71 percent at primary schools to 54.3 percent at middle schools and 47.8 percent at high schools. School pupils may become less positive toward the reunification of South and North Korea as they get older because they are exposed to a more negative reality.
On the issue of national unification, however, being realistic does not necessitate being pessimistic. Unification education should be given in a more consistent, substantial and systematic manner to keep schoolchildren upbeat on the issue, based on a correct understanding of related matters. It is important to help the young generation, who will be responsible for the destiny of our nation, become more active about and better prepared for the eventual inter-Korean unification.
Currently, elementary, middle and high school students are supposed to receive occasional lessons on unification, when education authorities see the need. The government designated a week for unification education last year to get students to have a more positive attitude and perception toward a reunified nation. It also plans to strengthen unification education through field work for seniors at middle and high schools after final exams or college entrance tests.
The findings of the survey, the first of its kind, which was conducted by the Unification and Education ministries between June 23 and July 11, may be used to improve the effectiveness and relevance of unification education.
Concern about economic burden and social unrest was the main reason for being negative on unification at 45.4 percent, followed by repulsion toward the North’s suppressive regime at 33.7 percent and differences between the two sides at 7.7 percent. By contrast, cited as reasons for supporting unification were the need to settle anxiety over security (25.8 percent), the prospect of strengthening national power (24.7 percent) and the consideration that residents in South and North Korea are the same people (18.9 percent).
About 45 percent of the respondents said life would be better after unification, with 34.1 percent expecting it to be worse and 18.3 percent seeing little change.
It will be necessary to convince students that the benefits from unification would more than offset its costs. It should also be noted that a unified and prosperous Korea would serve to enhance stability and coprosperity in Northeast Asia and beyond. At the same time, they should learn the importance of concerted and consistent efforts toward unification.