Koreans back closure of Kaesong: poll

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Koreans back closure of Kaesong: poll


As Seoul beefs up punitive measures against Pyongyang after its fourth nuclear test in January and launch of a long-range ballistic missile last week, a recent poll conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo showed locals were largely supportive of the latest restitutions spearheaded by the Park Geun-hye government, including the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Slightly more than half (54.8 percent) of 1,000 adults surveyed nationwide over the weekend said they agreed with shutting down the last remaining cooperative venture between the two Koreas, while 42.1 percent answered they disagreed and the remaining portion (3.1 percent) didn’t answer or said they don’t know.

The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Formed in 2002 in the North Korean city of Kaesong, located 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the inter-Korean border, the Kaesong Industrial Complex is a collaborative economic zone where more than 120 South Korean companies employ around 54,000 North Korean workers.

The Seoul government believes the park is a major source of hard currency for cash-strapped North Korea.

As to whether the closure will eventually prove to be an effective sanction against North Korea, 52.9 percent agreed, while 45.3 percent were doubtful. In a separate question asking whether Seoul needs to resume operations at the symbolic industrial park, 56.6 percent answered “yes,” while 40.9 percent said “no.”

While South Koreans were almost equally divided on whether it was a good idea to pull the plug on Kaesong, on the question of whether China would support Seoul with tough sanctions, 62.4 percent disagreed while only 28.5 percent thought China would follow through.

Nam Seong-uk, a North Korean studies professor at Korea University, said the doubtful perspective toward Beijing indicated a widespread belief here that a stronger alliance with China doesn’t affect the neighboring country’s relationship with North Korea.

Asked about the necessity of installing a Thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) battery on the Korean Peninsula, 67.7 percent agreed while 27.4 percent did not.

The results came as South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense recently announced that discussions with Washington on the issue will officially begin this week at the earliest. A transportable defensive weapon system developed by the United States, Thaad is designed to protect against ballistic missiles using a hit-to-kill approach and is deemed capable of intercepting any missile launched by Pyongyang.

China and Russia have protested its installation, claiming that the radar could be used as a surveillance method against them.

While almost every respondent (86.8 percent) in the poll thought Pyongyang would never relinquish its nuclear weapons, 67.7 percent said that Seoul should start developing its own nuclear weapons program as a countermeasure, an idea that conservative analysts and politicians have long supported.

Seoul has consistently dismissed the proposal, stating it runs counter to a 1992 denuclearization policy the two Koreas agreed to and the very spirit of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

As for whether the North’s recent provocations would affect Seoul’s upcoming general elections, more than half (61.1 percent) said they would, whereas 34.7 percent said they would not.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, KANG TAE-HWA AND NAM KOONG-WOOK [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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