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I. Introduction

 
There is no shortage of analysis about the evolving threat posed by the insufferable regime in North Korea; however, our understanding of the morphology of South Korean public attitudes on this subject still needs improvement. Most accounts of public opinion on the growing North Korean threat are episodic and limited in scope when the reality is more complex. Our review of the latest data on South Korean public opinion suggests many layers to the on-the-ground perspectives about North Korea.1

Some South Koreans support closer relations with Pyongyang while others see it as a growing threat. On some issues, South Korean public opinion looks quite robust and not prone to much change. Still, on other issues, we see wide swings and variations across time and demographic characteristics. In short, our findings show South Korean public opinion on North Korea is both sophisticated and complex. This report attempts to clarify and explain the intricacies of this reality.

While public opinion need not necessarily drive policy, established literature suggests political exigency influenced by popular sentiments can shape policy.2 To gather the most current South Korean public opinion on North Korea and deterrence, we conducted a survey in November 2022. Some questions in our survey are novel, but most of them are similar to the ones we have asked in the past. While the former will shed light on recent developments, the latter will prove helpful in tracking changes in sentiments over time.

 

Table of Contents

 
I. Introduction
 
II. Context Matters

III. Views on North Korea
   1. Image of North Korea
   2. North Korea as a Security Risk

IV. Threat Perception
   1. Perceptions about the North Korean Nuclear Threat

V. Responding to the North Korean Nuclear Threat
   1. U.S. Extended Deterrence
   2. Addressing the North Korea Security Challenge
   3. Nuclear Options and THAAD

VI. Conclusion
 
Survey Methodology
Appendix I: Asan Poll Questionnaire (November 2022)
Appendix II: Survey on Indigenous Nuclear Weapons Development

 

The views expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not reflect those of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

  • 1. J. James Kim, Kang Chungku, and Ham Geon Hee. Fundamentals of South Korean Public Opinion on Foreign Policy and National Security. Asan Report. The Asan Institute for Policy Studies. September 13, 2021; South Koreans and Their Neighbors 2022. Asan Poll. The Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
  • 2. James A. Stimson, Michael B. MacKuen, and Robert S. Erikson. 1995. “Dynamic Representation.” American Political Science Review, 89: 543-65; Paul Burstein. 2003. “The Impact of Public Opinion on Public Policy: A Review and an Agenda.” Political Research Quarterly. 56(1): 29-40; Benjamin I. Page and Robert Y. Shapiro. 1993. “Effects of Public Opinion on Policy.” American Political Science Review. 77: 175-90.

About Experts

J. James Kim
J. James Kim

지역연구센터

J. James Kim 박사는 아산정책연구원의 지역연구센터 선임연구위원으로 재직 중이며 Columbia University 국제대학원 겸임 강사이다. Cornell University에서 노사관계 학사와 석사학위를 마치고 Columbia University에서 정치학 박사학위를 취득하였다. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona의 조교수(2008-12)와 랜드연구소의 Summer 연구원(2003-2004) 등을 역임한 바 있다. 주요연구 분야는 비교민주주의 제도, 무역, 방법론, 공공정책 등이다.

강충구
강충구

연구부문

강충구는 아산정책연구원의 책임연구원이다. 고려대학교 영어영문학과를 졸업하고, 동 대학원 사회학과에서 석사학위를 받았다. 대화문화아카데미에서 객원연구원으로 "정책소통지수 개발" 연구에 참여했고, 연구 관심분야는 양적연구방법, 조사설계, 통계자료 분석 등이다.

함건희
함건희

연구부문

함건희는 아산정책연구원의 선임연구원이다. 고려대학교 정보수학과를 졸업하고 성균관대학교에서 통계학 석사학위를 취득했으며 현재 동 대학원 박사과정에 재학 중이다. 성균관대학교 응용통계연구소 연구원, 한국국방연구원 위촉연구원으로 재직한 바 있으며, 연구 관심분야는 혼합모형, 불완전 자료 분석, 방법론 등이다.