Most South Koreans believe reunification with North Korea would benefit both sides but are nervous about the changes that could happen, a survey suggests. The Chosun Ilbo and the Korean Political Science Association, Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs asked Hankook Research to gauge public attitudes toward reunification to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule.
A majority of the respondents, though in favor, voiced fears over the financial cost and ensuing social upheavals. Some 68 percent said reunification would benefit both Koreas, while only 15.7 percent feel the process would help only the North and 14.1 percent that it would hurt both sides.
Respondents in their 20s are the least enthusiastic, with 41 percent saying only the North would benefit from reunification or both sides would suffer. Some 56.2 percent said reunification would help both sides. Among respondents in their 60s or older, 70.5 percent said reunification would help both sides.
Some 32.3 percent fear that ideological differences would lead to social conflict, while 31.8 percent feared the economy would suffer as the South foots the bill for rebuilding the North. A government official said, "The public feel considerable stress over the potential political, social and economic cost of reunification."
But some 73.5 percent of respondents said they are willing to shoulder the cost, with 33.7 percent saying they can pay about W100,000 per year toward preparing for reunification (US$1=W1,125). Some 26.5 percent said they do not want to pay a penny.
Asked when reunification is likely to happen, 21.9 percent said within the next 20 years, 18.4 percent within the next 10 years and 6.1 percent said within five years. Only 11.2 percent predicted it will take longer than 20 years and 17.8 percent more than 30 years. A substantial 24.6 percent said never.
Asked about the main reason for the prolonged division of the Korean peninsula, 53.7 percent of South Koreans blamed North Korea's belligerence, while 38.4 percent blamed the U.S., China and Japan, and 7.9 percent pointed the finger at South Korea. Excluding people in their 40s, most blamed North Korea, but 47.9 percent of 40-somethings pointed the finger at the big powers for prolonging the rift.
Asked whether South Korea should continue aiding North Korea despite its nuclear weapons program, 45.3 percent said yes and 54.7 percent no. The results show growing disapproval of aid for North Korea as it steps up developing weapons of mass destruction.
The survey was conducted among 1,000 adults nationwide.