The Korea Herald


Public opinion on N. Korea turn negative following nuke test, missile launch

By 안성미

Published : June 6, 2016 - 10:04

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Public opinion on North Korea worsened in the wake of that country's fourth nuclear test and long-range missile launch earlier this year, a nationwide poll showed Monday.
According to the National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC), a poll carried out on 1,000 adult South Koreans in mid March, showed 34.6 percent saying Seoul should maintain a high degree of vigilance towards the North and its provocations. The same survey showed 27.2 percent of the respondents viewing the reclusive neighbor as country that the South should work with.   
"The first quarter results represent a significant shift from similar surveys carried out by Seoul National University and other unification-related studies in the past that consistently showed South Koreans thinking of the North as an object of cooperation and exchange," the NUAC said.
It added that the latest poll marked the first time ever that a NUAC poll result showed negative public perception towards Pyongyang exceeding those that looked upon the country as a partner.
The panel that advises the president on North Korean policy said compared to the previous poll conducted in the fourth quarter of 2015, the number of people that mistrusted the North rose by 4.7 percentage points from 29.9 percent, while those that wanted to expand cooperative ties nosedived 8.6 percentage points from 35.8 percent.
Compared to late last year, the latest poll showed that 16.2 percent considered the North Seoul's enemy, a spike of 8.9 percent, while those who looked upon the North as a country that Seoul should give assistance to fell to 11 percent, down 5.2 percentage points.
"If calls for vigilance are grouped together with the perception that the North is South Korea's enemy, the overall negative view towards the North reached 52.4 percent in March, up from 38.3 percent in the last poll carried out in late 2015," the panel said. In contrast, people who said the North is a partner and a country that we should help, dropped to 39.5 percent from 53.4 percent in the same period. Of people checked, 8.1 percent they were indifferent towards the North.

The NUAC said the shift in public opinion is directly related to the nuclear test and other provocative measures taken by Pyongyang this year.
"Whether such views become solidified or change with time can only be gauged in the future," it said.
The poll, meanwhile, showed that 38.9 percent of the respondents thought unification could take place in 10-20 years, with 15.2 percent saying it will take more than 30 years to achieve. The poll showed 19.8 percent believed that South and North Korea will never merge.
On the possibility that Pyongyang will strive for change and reform, 59 percent did not think such a development is likely.
The survey then said that 43.5 percent of South Koreans viewed the current security environment as worrisome, with 34.4 percent saying it is really no different compared to the past, and 20.9 percent saying things are stable.
Compared to the last survey, those expressing concern rose 11.1 percentage points, while those who believed the situation is stable fell by 6 percentage points.
The survey was conducted by local pollster Research & Research, at the request of the presidential advisory panel, with both mobile and fixed line phones being used to gather data. The results have a reliability of 95 percent with the margin of sampling error standing at plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. (Yonhap)