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Many S. Koreans do not know year of Korean War

June 23, 2013 - 20:48 By Korea Herald
A large number of South Koreans do not know when the Korean War (1950-53) broke out, reflecting the overall lack of interest about a conflict that defines inter-Korean relations to this day, a nationwide survey carried out by the government showed Sunday.

The poll conducted by Research & Research at the request of the Ministry of Security and Public Administration showed 36.5 percent of adults and 52.7 percent of youths in middle and high schools did not know the year the war broke out.

The local pollster surveyed 1,000 adults and 1,000 teenagers from May 25 through June 6.

The ministry said the results for adults marked a slight increase in incorrect answers vis-a-vis 2012, when the same poll revealed 35.4 percent failing to give the correct year. For youths, the number of people who got the date wrong fell 4.9 percentage points from 57.6 percent last year.

The latest survey, meanwhile, showed that 37.8 percent of adults and 48.9 percent of youths believed the Seoul government should do more to engage the North in dialogue to ease cross-border tensions, with 35.3 percent of adults and 20.9 percent of youths favoring international cooperation and diplomacy to cope with strained relations.

Only 23.0 percent of adults and 20.9 percent of students thought the North must first change its belligerent stance and stop making military threats in order to get the tension-easing process moving forward.

On the issue of Pyongyang detonating its third nuclear device in February and threatening to nullify the Armistice Agreement that halted the Korean conflict, 54.4 percent of adults and 42.0 percent of youths said they have become more aware of security issues facing the country. On the other hand, 40.6 percent of adults and 50.2 percent of youths said their views on security were not affected in any way.

The survey showed that 52.4 percent of adults and 51.3 percent of youths believe the North is a potential foe, while 43.0 percent of adults and 44.1 percent of young people consider the North as a partner and rival in fair competition.

The number of adults who believed the North as a foe and dangerous country dipped slightly from 52.6 percent in 2012, although the numbers for youths shot up from 46.1 percent.

The latest survey also revealed that 71.7 percent of South Korean adults and 55.7 percent of youths did not think the North could start another war, although more than 60 percent feared there is high risk of the communist country launching attacks like the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010.

On future prospects, the majority of people did not think there will be any significant changes to inter-Korean relations for the time being, with more than half having heard about President Park Geun-hye’s “trust building” process to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The process aims to lay the groundwork for sustainable South-North cooperation down the road. (Yonhap News)