S.Koreans Have Mixed Feelings About Reunification

A majority of South Koreans believe that reunification is in the national interest, but only a few think it will benefit individuals. This was the outcome of a poll conducted by the Chosun Ilbo.

Some 57.2 percent of respondents said reunification will be beneficial to the national interest and 39.4 percent it will not. But a whopping 66.3 percent do not expect it to benefit individual South Koreans directly, more than double the 30.9 percent who said it will.

About a half or 48.6 percent of respondents are concerned that the cost of reunification could overwhelm the potential benefit. Some 31.8 percent said the benefit will outweigh the cost, while 15.5 percent said the cost and benefit will be about equal. Some 4.1 percent gave no answer.

Among men, 40.9 percent said the benefit will overwhelm the cost, as compared with just 22.8 percent of women. By age group, 31.2 percent of those aged 19-29, 36.7 percent of those in their 30s, and 39.5 percent of those in their 40s believed that the benefit will be greater than the cost, as against a mere 25.7 percent of those in their 50s and 25.5 percent of those over 60.

Many respondents predict that employment and the economy will improve after reunification, but that the political and social landscape will deteriorate. Some 72.7 percent of respondents expect reunification will boost the country's standing in the international community.

"Many respondents believe that reunification will contribute to boosting the national economy and the national status in the world, but that individual people will have to bear a bigger tax burden to cover the cost of reunification," Kim Ji-yeon of Media Research said.

Four out of 10 or 37.7 percent of respondents believe that upheaval in North Korea including the execution of former eminence grise Jang Song-taek will further delay reunification. Only 19 percent said that the recent developments will expedite it, while 35.9 percent said it will have no great impact.

Some 62.4 percent stressed the need for the government to increase economic and technological assistance to the North in advance to narrow the wealth gap between the two Koreas. But 34.5 percent said such assistance is unnecessary.

The biggest proportion who do not see the need for assistance was among young people between 19 and 29 with 45.5 percent, followed by those in their 30s with 38.9 percent.

Some 64.6 percent said South Korea is not ready to cope politically, economically and socially with sudden reunification. Only 31.5 percent said the South is ready.

Media Research polled 1,000 adults nationwide by random dialing on Dec. 28-29, which is thought to result in a moderately representative sample of the population, give or take three percentage points.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 02, 2014 12:37 KST