Fewer S. Koreans see need for unification with N. Korea than 2 years ago: survey

SEOUL-- More South Koreans view the need for inter-Korean unification negatively than two years ago, while showing an increasing tendency to treat North Korea as a country to cooperate with, a survey conducted by a state-run think tank showed Wednesday.

According to the 2018 survey by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, obtained from Baek Seung-joo, a lawmaker of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, the number of people who see a need to reunify their country with the North came to 50.8 percent, down 10.8 percentage points from 2016, with 47.3 percent of respondents opposed to the idea of reunification, up 11.3 percentage points.

The latest survey was conducted on 1,011 people throughout the country from Sept. 12 through Oct. 5 last year and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Asked about when inter-Korean unification could come, "20 years later" was supported by 29.2 percent, "reunification will be impossible" by 26 percent, "within 20 years" by 17.2 percent, "within 10 years" by 14.9 percent and "within five years" by 4.3 percent.

The survey also found that 31.1 percent of the respondents expressed their recognition of North Korea as a country to cooperate with, compared with 24.7 percent in 2016. More than 16 percent said South Korea should have an adversarial relationship with the North, down 8 percentage points from two years ago.

About half of the respondents said North Korea is a country either to cooperate with or to turn against, almost the same level of 49.3 percent in 2016.

Regarding the possibility of an all-out war against the North, the number of people who believe there is a high possibility fell 16.3 percentage points from two years ago to 8.9 percent, while the number of people who take a dim view of it rose 18.2 percentage points to 89.7 percent.

In response to a question on whether North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons for denuclearization, 32.2 percent of those polled said the North's denuclearization will take place while 58.7 percent showed a negative view of it.

More than 45 percent of the respondents support the idea of South Korea arming itself with nuclear weapons, down from 63.8 percent in 2016, with the number of people opposed to the idea rising to 48.1 percent from 29.4 percent.

In the survey, 62.8 percent agreed that the Seoul-Washington alliance is stable, compared with 78.9 percent in 2016. But the number of people who answered that the alliance is unstable increased 15.4 percentage points to 34.6 percent.

As to whether the Unites States will honor its commitment to defend South Korea in case of the North's provocations, 67.5 percent said the U.S. will do so, down from 78 percent in 2016.

Asked about the need for U.S. troops to be stationed in South Korea after the possible signing of a peace treaty, 49.8 percent said they should continue to be stationed in the country, while 40.4 percent took the view that the withdrawal of the U.S. troops should be subject to the situation following the formation of the peace treaty. A mere 8.5 percent said they should withdraw from the country.

An overwhelming 83.7 percent supported the need to widen the South Korea-U.S. alliance, with 12.8 percent expressing that there is no such a need.

The survey revealed that more South Koreans are in favor of instituting a volunteer military system, with 11.7 percent supporting the idea, up 1.8 percentage points from 2016.

Forty-six percent of those polled were in favor of the idea that South Korea should maintain its current compulsory military service and at the same time introduce a voluntary military system, up 5.9 percentage points. The rate of people who support the maintenance of compulsory military service fell to 36.8 percent from 46.1 percent two years ago.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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