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Half of schoolchildren, teachers in S. Korea view North as 'partner': poll

All Headlines 14:14 August 27, 2014

SEOUL, Aug. 27 (Yonhap) -- Nearly half of students and teachers in South Korea perceive North Korea as a friend, rather than a foe, a government poll showed Wednesday.

The survey on 116,000 students and 3,130 teachers at 200 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide showed that 48.8 percent of schoolchildren and teachers in South Korea considered their northern neighbor a "cooperation partner."

Slightly over 26 percent thought Pyongyang was an "enemy" while less than 15 percent characterized the North as an "aid beneficiary."

The unification and education ministries conducted the survey between June 23 and July 11. It marked the first government poll on the students and teachers' perceptions about reunification.

More than 53 percent responded "yes" when asked if unification was necessary, followed by 26.1 percent who said their position was "neutral." Nearly 20 percent said unification was not necessary.

Security concerns were cited as the No. 1 reason to reunify the Koreas at 25.8 percent, followed by the need to strengthen national power with 24.7 percent. Nearly 19 percent supported unification because the two Koreas are the same people.

Economic and social costs were the main reason why respondents were opposed to unification at 45.4 percent, followed by repulsion toward the North's regime at 33.7 percent and a sense of otherness at 7.7 percent.

A separate poll conducted by the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University (SNU) showed that 55.7 percent of the North Koreans who defected to the South in 2013 had considered their southern neighbor as a "cooperation partner" prior to leaving their home country, down 8.2 percentage points from the cohort in 2012.

In contrast, some 20 percent of defectors last year had thought South Korea was an "enemy" before leaving North Korea, up 7.3 percentage points from 2012.

"The frosty relations between the two Koreas last year, compounded by the North's propaganda condemning the South to its people, seem to have strengthened North Koreans' negative perception of their southern neighbor," said Kim Byeong-ro, an SNU professor at the institute.

South and North Korea remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

sojungpark@yna.co.kr
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