Negative view of North increases dramatically

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Negative view of North increases dramatically

South Koreans’ negative sentiment toward North Korea increased dramatically amid the sinking of the Cheonan warship and the North’s recent attack on Yeonpyeong Island, a joint survey commissioned by the JoongAng Ilbo, the Asia Research Institute and the East Asia Institute showed on Saturday.

The joint survey on South Korean sentiment toward North Korea was last done five years ago.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 22 to Nov. 8 by Hankook Research, two weeks before the Yeonpyeong attack, and respondents were asked comprehensive questions in one-on-one interviews.

In the survey conducted five years ago, only 15.3 percent of respondents said they consider the North an enemy, but in this year’s survey, in which 1,019 South Koreans took part, 31.9 percent of respondents said they think the North is their enemy.

Experts who analyzed the results of the survey said more South Koreans are likely to think North Korea is their enemy after the South Korean navy ship Cheonan was sunk in March by a North Korean torpedo, killing 46 South Korean sailors on board.

North Korea still denies any involvement.

This year, 80.5 percent of respondents said they believe South and North Korea are separate countries, an increase of 2.8 percent from that of five years ago (77.7 percent).

And the survey also showed that more South Koreans blame North Korea for the breakout of the Korean War (1950-53). In the 2005 survey, 61 percent of respondents said they blame the North for the war, but this year it went up to 79.2 percent.

The two Koreas have technically remained at war since the end of the Korean War, which came to a close with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

In response to a question on whether the South Korean government should provide more humanitarian aid to the North, 31.6 percent of respondents said Seoul should trim its aid to the North.

In the survey conducted five years ago, more people were against the idea of slashing humanitarian aid and only 27 percent of respondents supported the idea.

An increased negative sentiment toward North Korea also changed South Korea’s perception of unification.

Experts who analyzed the survey results suggested negative publicity toward Pyongyang intensified among South Koreans largely because of the North’s nuclear weapons, power succession and security issues caused by North Korea’s recent military provocations and.

When they were asked about the need for unification, 19.3 percent of respondents said there is “no need” to unite the two Koreas, more than a twofold increase from the 2005 survey (7.9 percent), while 23.5 percent said there is no need to hasten unification (from 19.6 percent in the 2005 survey).

In the 2005 survey, 17.4 percent of respondents said the South Korean government should hasten unification, but this figure went down to 10.4 percent in this year’s survey.

Reuniting the two countries has become a hot topic after President Lee Myung-bak proposed creating a new tax to finance the cost of unification. But the survey showed South Koreans aren’t willing to sacrifice - 60.5 percent of respondents said they won’t pay unification costs, a two-fold increase from 2005 (30.4 percent).



By Special Reporting Team [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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