December 06, 2010 13:07
Experts trace a marked lack of urgency felt by young South Koreans about national security, a complacent attitude toward the North Korean threat and shortcomings in education.
The Chosun Ilbo and the Korean Federation of Teachers Associations conducted a survey of 1,240 students from 5th to 12th grade in Seoul last week and found that 43 percent either did not know about the Nov. 23 attack on Yeonpyeong Island or believed that South Korean military drills had caused the North to fire.
When asked who was responsible for sinking the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in March, 36 percent of the students did not point the finger at North Korea. Some 26 percent did not know that the Korean War started because the North invaded the South.
Experts said that the scrapping of classes in schools over the last 10 years educating students about the North Korean threat and some teachers painting a rosy picture of the North are responsible for the flawed views students have about the communist country.
Only 57 percent said the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island was a North Korean provocation. The remaining 43 percent said "pointless" South Korean military exercises had provoked the attack, or South Korea launched the first attack.
Asked what caused the Cheonan to sink, 64 percent gave the correct answer, but the remaining 36 percent did not believe North Korea was responsible. Some said the South Korean government sank the ship to gain votes for the conservative party in regional elections, echoing the views of some radical leftwing groups.
When asked what represents the biggest threat to South Korea, 76 percent said North Korea. The remaining 24 percent pointed at Japan, China or the U.S., and some the ruling Grand National Party and the Lee Myung-bak administration.
When it comes to the Korean War, 73 percent said that North Korea and Kim Il-sung started it, but 27 percent said the U.S. or South Korean president Syngman Rhee. Only 50.1 percent of the students knew that the war started in 1950 and only 10 percent knew that the ceasefire agreement was signed in 1953.
"During the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, school education focused only on portraying North Koreans as our brethren," said Park Hyo-jong, a professor at Seoul National University. "That has led to failure to instill in students the notion that North Korea is a threat that we have to defend our country from."
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