중앙데일리

Koreans cast wary eye on world

Oct 14,2005
A new poll suggests that a few traces of Korea’s history as a “hermit kingdom” still linger in modern South Korea. The poll suggests that the general public here has a strong distrust of neighboring countries and favors the acquisition of nuclear weapons to deter outside pressure.
The poll, conducted by the Joong-Ang Ilbo and the East Asia Institute, surveyed Korean attitudes toward globalization 60 years after the nation’s liberation from Japanese rule. The survey of 1,038 adult Koreans from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
In short, Koreans dislike the idea of integrating this country into the affairs of the outside world and cling to a suspicion of those who do not share their ethnic identity. Only 40 percent said Korea should increase its aid to poorer countries, for example, and two-thirds opposed the idea of easing the requirements for foreigners to obtain Korean citizenship. More than 57 percent rejected the idea that Korea should follow decisions of international organizations that differed from sentiment here.
Two-thirds of Koreans in the poll said they believed this country did not get the respect it deserved from the outside world, and an even larger majority, 72 percent, said any country had to have strong military power to survive in the world.
In a corollary to that view, support for the development of nuclear weapons has risen sharply in the past year, perhaps inspired by the assertions of North Korea that it has a nuclear deterrent. In the new poll, nearly 67 percent favored arming this nation with nuclear weapons, up from about 51 percent in a JoongAng Ilbo poll in September 2004.
Korea’s economy is very dependent on trade, but Koreans are largely resistant to opening up markets here. Nearly 69 percent said rice imports should not be allowed, and 58 percent said foreign business giants are hurting the domestic economy.
Although the specific question appears a bit ambiguous, about 70 percent of Koreans said they did not trust other countries that have important relationships here, either because of geography or alliance. Only about 20 percent said they trusted the United States, another 44 percent said they did not, and the remaining 36 percent said they did not know or gave no answer.
“The poll shows the magnitude of Korea’s diplomatic challenges because of its geopolitical position, surrounded by four major powers,” said Kim Tae-hyun, an international relations professor at Chung-Ang University. “History made a large contribution in creating those negative and close-minded views of the international community. To overcome such challenges and to promote Korea’s interests in the competitive international arena, strong political leadership is a must.”


by Shin Chang-woon, Chun Young-gi


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