According to a new study conducted by the government-run think tank Korea Institute for National Unification, more than 9 out of 10 South Koreans do not believe Pyongyang is eager to give up its nuclear weapons.
The number of respondents who felt North Korea was unwilling to denuclearize increased dramatically over the last five years, from 71.3 percent in 2016 to 90.7 percent in April, according to the annual survey released Thursday.
Only 14.3 percent of the 1,003 respondents aged 18 and up trusted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, down from 33.5 percent in April 2019, following a period of diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang.
At the same time, less than half of South Koreans were concerned about the North’s nuclear threat, with 42.5 percent indicating they were “somewhat” or “very” concerned. Only 18.6 percent of those polled believed the nuclear danger had an influence on their lives.
Nuclear talks with Pyongyang have stalled after a February 2019 meeting between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump failed to yield an accord.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has indicated a readiness to meet with North Korea as part of a “calibrated and practical approach” towards the nuclear-armed state.
According to the KINU poll, 69 percent of respondents said Biden should meet with Kim, but majority demanded requirements that North Korea either make concessions or give up its nuclear weapons altogether.
Inter-Korean ties have also deteriorated since Pyongyang cut off all contact routes with Seoul and demolished a joint liaison office in June of last year.
However, North Korea has maintained a relatively low profile as it struggles with the economic fallout of closed borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pyongyang has not conducted any nuclear or long-range missile tests since 2017, although it did launch a pair of short-range ballistic missiles in March, in violation of United Nations sanctions.
According to the KINU poll, most South Koreans, particularly the younger generation, are unconcerned about North Korea. Overall, 61 percent of respondents said they were “disinterested” in North Korea, rising to 74.1 percent among those born after 1991.
The younger generation was similarly uninterested in pursuing unification with North Korea, with just 12.4 percent in support, compared to 71.4 percent in favour of peaceful coexistence.
Survey respondents also expressed significant support for the US-South Korean alliance, with 93.8 percent believing it would be important in the future and 90.3 percent believing the US military is required in Korea.