Korean students increasingly approve of North-South reunification

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Korean students increasingly approve of North-South reunification

More than six out of 10 Korean youth believe that reunification with North Korea is necessary, according to results of a joint survey by the Education Ministry and Unification Ministry Tuesday.
The annual survey on the state of reunification studies in schools, conducted between Nov. 2 and Nov. 30 of 2020, questioned 68,750 students in 670 elementary, middle, and high schools across the country on their opinion of North Korea and future prospects for inter-Korean relations. The survey contained 20 questions and had a 0.74 percent margin of error.
While the proportion of students who think reunification is necessary increased by nearly 7 percentage points from 2019 to 62.4 percent, respondents who said reunification is not necessary also increased by 4.8 percentage points to 24.2 percent.
When asked why they think reunification is necessary, 28.4 percent of students cited a reduction in the risk of war, up 7 percentage points from the previous year. Twenty-five point five percent gave shared national identity as the reason for why reunification is necessary, representing a 3.6 percentage-point decline from the previous year.
Over half of students, or 54.5 percent, agreed that reunification would not be necessary if the North and South could co-exist in harmony, while 34.7 percent disagreed. Students who consider the North a “party for cooperation” make up 54.7 percent of respondents, while those who consider the North a “party to be wary of” constitute 24.2 percent.
Thirty-five point two percent of students responded that they think inter-Korean relations are not peaceful, marking a 1.5 percentage-point increase from 2019 and a nearly 20 percentage-point increase from 2018. Only 17.6 percent of students responded that they do think inter-Korean relations are peaceful, marking a steep decline from 36.6 percent in 2018.
Although cross-border relations thawed in 2018 following the North’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and bilateral summits, tensions rose again after the Hanoi summit in Vietnam between former U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was cut short without an accord.
Over 70 percent of students said they would be comfortable with having a North Korean defector as a classmate or school friend, while 59.9 and 57.1 percent said they would not want one as a desk partner or as class president, respectively.
BY MICHAEL LEE   [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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