In previous posts, we have taken a look at changing South Korean public opinion on the North. The East Asian Institute issued up some interesting findings on the Cheonan and Yeongpyeon-do shelling and Kang Won-taek at SNU did some nice work on broader views of the North (see our posts here and here).
The Asan Institute for Policy Studies has recently gotten into the game with a recent "breaking poll" on the South Korean reaction to the death of Kim Jong Il. The poll should be read with some caution because it was done one day following the announcement of Dear Leader’s death when uncertainty was highest. Nonetheless, Asan puts the findings in the context of some earlier and later polls and there are some interesting findings:
- The public was almost equally divided on whether the death of Kim Jong Il increased or decreased the likelihood of war, but a majority of respondents (excluding “don’t knows”) believed that the regime would survive (about 50% vs. 38%). Particularly interesting is opinion on whether North Korean “collapse” was good or bad for Korean security. A majority (56%) thought it was bad, but this rose to over 62% among respondents in their 20s and 30s. The younger generation does not appear to have the same romantic attachment to unification as their elders.
- The poll asked which countries were most important for South Korea to court in managing the North. China’s embrace is not limited to the North; fully 51% thought that Beijing was most important, with only 35% citing the US. More cited Russia (5%) than Japan (just over 1%).
- The Asan study shows a dramatic increase between polls taken before and after Kim Jong Il’s death in the share of respondents favoring a softer line toward the North. A 56-40 majority favors the resumption of food and fertilizer aid. But a particularly interesting finding is that age cohorts break in a very different way on this question. Both those in their 60s and 20s are more skeptical—with majorities opposing a resumption of aid--than those in the middle age cohorts between 30 and 60 where majorities approve a resumption of aid.
- LMB’s North Korea policy is not popular, with only 29% approving it and over 55% disapproving (again, omitting “don’t knows”). But the generational gap is even wider on this general question. Approval exceeds disapproval among only one age cohort; those over 60. Among those in their 30s, disapproval exceeds approval 73-13. As we have suggested before, the GNP has some work to do on this and appears to recognize it.
- The report closes with a detailed analysis of recent developments in the presidential race. One finding is that the death of Kim Jong Il corresponds with an uptick in support for the GNP, and despite a burst of scandals in the party. One speculation: the public appears to believe that Park Geun Hye is better suited to manage foreign policy, and North Korea in particular, than Ahn Chul Soo, her likely opponent. Concern about foreign policy credentials is even visible among Ahn’s supporters.