중앙데일리

Koreans sober about unification

Oct 12,2005
South Koreans’ strong sense that blood is thicker than water appears to be fading just a bit, especially in their views toward North Korea and reunification.
The JoongAng Ilbo and the East Asia Institute recently completed a survey of South Korean attitudes as the nation marked the 60th anniversary of its liberation from Japanese colonial rule. The survey was conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 by Hankook Research, which interviewed 1,038 Korean adults. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent, with 95-percent confidence in those results.
Views on North Korea have changed significantly, the survey said. In the past, South Koreans considered the North as temporarily off-limits national territory that should be reintegrated as soon as possible, the group studying the poll results said, and considered reunification the nation’s major task. But this poll said that longing for unification is weakening; 78 percent of those surveyed said that the two Koreas are separate countries.
Other thinking on reunification has changed as well; the academics termed it more realistic than in the past. In a 1996 survey by the Sejong Institute, 30 percent of Koreans said unification was the top national priority, to be achieved at any cost. The emotional approach, however, changed over the decade, the experts said.
In the new survey, only 17 percent said unification must come as soon as possible.
While more than eight out of ten people here still see reunification as important, over half of Koreans say it should be pursued with an eye on other issues facing the country. Nearly 20 percent said there should be no hurry to achieve it, and 8 percent said only that it was “an option.”
Despite the clamor from Korea’s far left, only about 1 percent of those surveyed said the nation should be reunified under a communist political system. Over half said Korea should adopt a “one nation, two system” approach to reuniting.
The poll’s analysts said the changed attitudes here about unification appear to have been stimulated by the fact that it now seems more possible than it has in the past, and South Koreans are beginning to appreciate the cruel realities of the North Korean regime. They also have considered the costs of reunifying the nation ― and gulped.
More than 30 percent of those surveyed said they were not willing to accept any additional taxation to support reunification. About 40 percent said they were willing to pay less than 100,000 won ($96) per year to prop up and develop the North until unification.
Nearly 70 percent said unification would reduce the unified Korea’s national competitiveness in the short term but strengthen it over time.


by Shin Chang-woon, Chun Young-gi, Ser Myo-ja


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