This study is to examine the correlation between public opinion in Korean society and the policy of unification with North Korea under the circumstances of national division, and militarized hostility and confrontation since the North developed nuclear weapons and advanced missile technology.
It analyzed the results of existing research on public opinion toward North Korea and unification policies. It figured out a number of factors affecting the trends of public opinion: (1) the government’s policy line (2) changes in government (3) changes in the security environment, and (4) the framework of perception shared by the public. To analyze the changes in public perception about the government’s policies on the North and unification, it compared opinion surveys conducted in 2015 when the conservative Park Geun-hye government was in office, with those conducted in 2017 under the liberal Moon Jae-in government.
According to the results of the analysis, changes in the security situation were the main variables in wishes for unification. It also found that the public tends to settle for rational alternatives even under serious security threats from North Korea. As regards the moves of North Korea, the survey showed slight differences between the responses from the conservative and rogressive camps. The public evaluation of the government’s North Korea policy revealed what the government opted for was in line with the public sentiment. Finally, the surveys found that the public held North Korea accountable for the security situation on the Korean peninsula, while assessing the security situation based on the understanding of the interests of neighboring countries.