48% of S. Korean youth would support NK if US attacks

This would have surprised me, if I hadn’t seen a BBC special on Korea while living in Singapore on how supportive many young South Koreans are of North Korea and Dear Leader. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

I just watched in astonishment a piece on the BBC on how many in South Korea believe they were brainwashed with anti-Communist propaganda, and that North Korea is a better, more fair model of government than that of the repressive Americans. They interviewed college students who, with a straight face, praise their northern divided half.

This reflects an apparently growing mindset that the American troops should leave the peninsula so reunification can be achieved.

I don’t have to go into the surreal brutalities and psychoses of the DPRK. All I can say is, Be careful what you wish for — it just might come true. I can understand wanting to get foreign troops off your soil. I can’t understand anyone seeing any redeeming qualities in the living, breathing hell created by Dear Leader and his goons.

Based on this new alarming article, I’d have to sadly conclude that most young South Koreans missed my earlier post.

Almost half of juniors surveyed, who will get their first voting rights in the 2007 presidential election, said in a recent poll that South Korea should side with North Korea if Washington attacks nuclear facilities in the North without Seoul’s consent.

In the survey of 1,000 youngsters aged between 18 and 23, conducted by The Korea Times and its sister paper the Hankook Ilbo on Feb. 16-19, nearly 48 percent of respondents said that if the U.S. attacked nuclear facilities in North Korea, Seoul should act on Pyongyang’s behalf and demand Washington stop the attack.

But 40.7 percent of them said Seoul should keep a neutral stance in the event of such attacks, while 11.6 percent said South Korea needs to act in concert with the United States.

A political expert in Seoul said that the poll results should not be interpreted as meaning young South Koreans are anti-American.

Yeah, whatever. Then again, this is the Age of Bush, and just about everybody is anti-American, and it’s not very hard to understand why. Still, to think that so many in a country that’s supposed to be one of our strongest allies would harbor such thoughts…. You’d think if anyone on the planet would be cognizant of the evils of Kim Jong Il it would be the South Koreans. I wondered about it when I wrote my original post, and I wonder about it now.

The Discussion: 19 Comments

My first impression is that this is a very stilted set of questions.

South Korea should side with North Korea if Washington attacks nuclear facilities in the North without Seoul’s consent

And what’s shocking about that? Apart from practical concerns, like it’s Seoul, not Washington, that will get bombed in retaliation? And the fact that this would be an act of naked aggression by the US?

Add to that, many South Koreans have relatives in the North, and they still sort of share a culture.

February 22, 2006 @ 7:46 am | Comment

Note also we’re talking about an attack without Seoul’s consent. So are you saying it’s shocking that 48% of teenagers would side with their own government’s opposition if a foreign power started bombing their neighbors?

February 22, 2006 @ 7:54 am | Comment

In the survey of 1,000 youngsters aged between 18 and 23

Age 18 to 23? Hmm, I think this may have a bit to do with those poll results.

Please don’t be offended Richard, I know you are barely out of your teens yourself. 😉

February 22, 2006 @ 7:56 am | Comment

Good points; the questions are undoubtedly contrived. Any idea why so many South Koreans still look on the north so favorably, per my earlier post?

February 22, 2006 @ 8:10 am | Comment

Not having seen the previous BBC report you refer to, I can’t say. But I’d be inclined to suspect manipulative journalists not presenting a complete picture of their viewpoints.

February 22, 2006 @ 8:32 am | Comment

It’s nationalism, innit?

To hell with alternative ideologies — Marxism or capitalism — Koreans are an intensely nationalistic people.

Ethnic and national pride dictate that if big-nose foreign devils attack their northern compatriats large numbers of South Koreans will choose blood over value systems.

February 22, 2006 @ 8:52 am | Comment

From the admittedly little I’ve read on the subject, I understand that the South Koreans were lectured at great lengths about the evils of North Korea…by a repressive military dictatorship that wasn’t averse to gunning down its own citizens. The nature of the South Korean regime, in other words, created a credibility gap in relation to its claims about the North.

Obviously South Korea is no longer a dictatorship, but perhaps constant demonisation of the North has led to an equal and opposite reaction whereby suspicion of their own government is matched by a willingness to take what the North Korean regime says at face value.

Imagine, for instance, a Soviet dissident during the 1980s. The state-controlled media are filled with tiresome and predictable denunciations of ‘American imperialism’. Meanwhile, he listens to Voice of America and hears President Reagan talk about spreading freedom and democracy throughout the world. He thinks that the Soviet government’s constant efforts to attack and discredit the US are themselves ample proof that America is a force for good.

When he reads in a Soviet newspaper that US-backed Nicaraguan Contras have massacred thousands of peasants, he thinks to himself that the story is probably invented or exaggerated, just another example of baseless anti-American propaganda.

In the same way, perhaps, South Koreans might disbelieve true statements about repression in North Korea because they do not trust the South Korean government to tell the truth, and because they know that it would have good reason to lie about the North. Unable to decide which side is telling the truth, they give the benefit of the doubt to the North, on the grounds that if there wasn’t anything good or right about the North the South wouldn’t bother to denounce it.

February 22, 2006 @ 8:59 am | Comment

I saw a tv show once about an american veteran of the korean war. I guess after the war they had a choice to stay in the north or leave, and this guy and a few others chose to stay. he said within 24 hours he knew he had made a mistake, and didnt get to leave for 40 or so years.

February 22, 2006 @ 9:03 am | Comment

Good points, boo. If you posed the related question of:

“Would you support N Korea attaining Nukes, given that this would lead Japan to attain nukes ?”

You’d likely get some new insights.

February 22, 2006 @ 9:07 am | Comment


Nationalism and naivety are the answers. I bet they won’t support the North if they are forced to live there for a few years.

February 22, 2006 @ 9:48 am | Comment

…some of my corean friends told me that south corea is the country in the world with the most US military bases on his land.

They also told me that they have a LOT of troubles with the US soldiers stationned there. some of them killed a girl with their jeep.

There are a lot of anti-US manifestations in South corea, but very few of them are reported in medias.

what’s your opinion about this? Ever heard something familiar?

February 22, 2006 @ 11:03 am | Comment

While the poll results are certainly aimed at getting the result they got, it’s been my experience that South Koreans are generally very anti-American. So, I say … let them stew in their own juices. USA should withdraw all military bases, and all promises of military support.

Then … sit back and watch the proverbial hit the fan. A solid dose of reality would do the South Koreans a lot of good.

February 23, 2006 @ 2:05 am | Comment

Don’t judge them too harshly. Blood is thicker than water, and desire is stronger than logic.


While you in the US might believe that you are in South Korea for its own protection, many people in Korea do not see it that way. They see you as an occupying power whose job was done 40 years ago.

They also fear that the US will be the death of them, literally.

Many of US non Americans are rather worried that your government might drag us into wars because you have troops in our countries and a government that keeps kicking ants nests around the world.

February 23, 2006 @ 5:12 am | Comment

Good insight into the S. Korean mindset, ACB. On the same token, the failures of the sunshine policy and other S.Korean attempts at rapprochement have been painfully obvious for years. The N. isn’t going to make nice because lord Kim is given a few tractors and some grain.

February 23, 2006 @ 5:40 am | Comment

how bout because of colonization practices?
or perhaps because the US played a major role in the division itself?
hmmm yeah.

February 23, 2006 @ 9:12 am | Comment

Well, as I said ACB: USA should leave, and let the Koreans see the reality of the situation for themselves. They’ve lived under the security blanket for so long, they don’t notice that it’s there, and what it means.

February 23, 2006 @ 3:25 pm | Comment

In my experience, older South Koreans tend to be more au fait with the real state of things in North Korea, whereas younger ones tend to let their anti-americanism blind them to the reality of affairs.

I’ve heard twelve-year olds in Korea praise Osama bin Laden …


February 25, 2006 @ 12:45 am | Comment

As a freedom loving person, I am very encourage by this latest development in Korea. The results show that Koreans are no longer pro-Americans like their earlier generations but aare becoming pro-Koreans.

February 25, 2006 @ 2:37 am | Comment

South Korea is not really a sovereign nation. I like to show my Korean friends a photo of JSA. I love to ask my South Korean friends, why is the flag of South Korea not at JSA? You can see a similar photo here:

February 25, 2006 @ 2:41 am | Comment

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