Poll: One-fifth of students oppose unification idea

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Poll: One-fifth of students oppose unification idea

One in five South Korean students says they do not want a costly, risky unification with North Korea, while one in four regards North Korea as a foe, according to a recent survey.

The analysis, conducted by South Korea’s Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Unification and Research & Research, a polling company, surveyed 116,000 elementary, middle and high school students nationwide between June 23 and July 11 via visits to those schools.

According to the survey, 19.7 percent of the respondents said they thought unification with North Korea was “unnecessary,” while more than half, 53.5 percent, said they found it “necessary.”

The rate of students who claimed they had “neutral” feelings about the matter stood at 26.1 percent.

When asked about the reasons why they opposed unification, 45.4 percent said they worried about the economic burdens or social disorders unification would have for the South.

When it came to other reasons, 33.8 percent said they felt “uncomfortable” with North Korea because of the regime’s recent military provocations; 7.7 percent said they believed the North was a foreign country due to the language and cultural differences; while 7.4 percent thought it would be better to maintain the status quo, especially considering relations with neighboring nations.

The older the students were, it turned out, the more they resisted the idea of unification. High school students were relatively cautious in supporting unification. Less than half of high school students, 47.8 percent, said they wanted unification, while 27.9 percent remained “neutral” and 23.8 percent said they were opposed.

At middle schools, 54.3 percent of students supported unification, while 26.6 percent were neutral and 18.3 percent rejected it.

At elementary schools, 71 percent of students supported unification, followed by 17.1 percent of neutral students and 11 percent in opposition.

When asked whether a unified Korea would make for a better society than the current one, 45.7 percent said it would, while 34.1 percent said a unified country would present more difficulties.

More than a quarter of students also regarded North Korea as an enemy of the state. When asked how South Korea should deal with North Korea, 26.3 percent said they “should be hostile” to the regime, while 48.8 percent said they “should cooperate” with it and 14.5 percent said they should “support” it.

In a separate poll that surveyed 3,130 teachers nationwide, data showed that education on unification was lacking. Although 81.6 percent said they had taught their students about the necessity of unification, 35.7 percent said lectures were less than five hours per year.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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