A survey on North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23 by Cheong Wa Dae shows that while most people want tough measures against the North, many in their 30s still support the Sunshine Policy of aid and engagement initiated by the Kim Dae-jung administration. Other surveys also show that more people in their 30s than in other age groups support the policy.
In a poll by Research & Research on Nov. 27, 43.3 percent of respondents held the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, which implemented the engagement policy, responsible for the North's development of nuclear weapons. But 35.4 percent blamed the Lee Myung-bak administration's hard-line North Korea policy. Some 21.3 percent gave no answer.
Most of those in their 20s and in their 40s through 60s blamed the Kim and Roh administrations, but of those in their 30s 50.1 percent held the current government to account.
About 70 percent of those in their 20s and 40s through 60s but only 54.4 percent in their 30s called for a tougher policy against the North.
In a survey by Dongseo Research on Dec. 7, 59.4 percent of those in their 30s said they had they would fight if a war should break out or send their children to war. But that was a lower proportion than the 64.2 percent of those in their 20s, 77.1 percent of those in their 40s, and 83.5 percent of those in their 50s or older.
Experts said 30-somethings seem to have been influenced by the circumstances they experience. When they were in their 20s, they learned about progressive ideas at college under the influence of the older generation who participated in the democratic movement of the 1980s. They acquired strong anti-establishment views because they had difficulties finding jobs in the wake of the Asian financial crisis in 1997.
They also spent the latter half of their teenage years and their 20s under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations and are wedded to their progressive propensities. "They now lead the politically progressive group, substituting the older generation mostly born in 1960s who are now getting on and becoming prone to conservatism," Prof. Kim Hyung-joon of Myongji University said. "Those in their 30s will also probably change when they reach their 40s, a time when they will feel more responsibility at home and in society."
Prof. Lee Hyun-woo of Sogang University said, "The progressive tendency of those in their 30s stands out in contrast to relatively conservative younger people. Those in their 20s are a non-ideological and individualistic generation who grew up amid economic abundance, so they're very conservative as far as national security is concerned." However, he said they are capable of protesting on single issues that arouse their concern such as the furor over the import of American beef two years ago.