Many North Koreans believe that their country's nuclear weapons present a real threat to South Korea and that its conventional military capacity is vastly superior.
The impression comes from a survey by the Chosun Ilbo and Center for Cultural Unification Studies among 100 North Koreans living in the Chinese border areas of Dandong and Yanji from January until May.
When asked how threatening the North's nuclear weapons are to the South, 53 of the 100 said "very threatening," and 13 "somewhat threatening."
Nine said "not so threatening" and 21 "no threat at all." Four were noncommittal.
One man from South Pyongan Province faithfully repeated Pyongyang's propaganda that it can turn Seoul into a "sea of fire" at the push of a button.
A respondent in his 40s speculated that the North would use nuclear weapons. Another said, "It would be dangerous because there would be a large number of casualties if nuclear bombs fell in densely populated parts of South Korea with many buildings and facilities."
But others believe their regime's threats are hot air. "There's just a lot of talk, but there are no nuclear weapons," one said.
Fifty-five of the 100 respondents believe the North's military capacity is greater than the South's, especially in terms of morale.
"Many people are saying they would give up their lives for the fatherland, the people, and the leader," a man from South Pyongan Province said.
"North Koreans have no choice but to obey their leader because they've lived under the socialist system for so long," another respondent said. "They'll fight in the war if Kim orders them to." He added, "If the Americans should provoke war with the North, even children would fight because we know how to handle rifles."
Another North Korean said, "Many people are frankly hoping that a war will break out because it's so difficult for them to make a living."
But others admitted that while the North is heavily militarized, it would succumb to combined American and South Korean forces. Others went further. "South Korea would overwhelm the North because it has imported many weapons from foreign countries," said one.
Another said, "How could North Korea possibly start a war? We're economically backward and the least developed country in the world."