South Korea currently finds itself in the geographic middle of the most dynamic region in the world. However, unlike the past, South Korea is now one of the most important and most influential players in the region. Faced with a hostile North Korea to its immediate north, a rising China to its west, a declined Japan to its east, and a re-committed United States to Asia, South Korea’s role
in the region, and the public’s understanding of that role, is a topic of increasing importance.
To say that South Koreans’ views on foreign affairs are complicated is an understatement. North Korea is the South’s biggest security threat, but its people are seen as brethren. The United States is the primary security partner, but is also seen as being responsible for the division of the Korean Peninsula. There are long running historical feuds with Japan, but both South Korea and Japan are allied with the United States and face a common threat in North Korea. As for China, it remains South Korea’s biggest trading partner, but South Koreans consistently identify it as the biggest threat in a post-unification scenario.
Making sense of these complicated relationships, and the public perception of them, requires a broad understanding of history, economics, security, politics, and Korean identity. This report aims to provide an overview of how South Koreans view issues related to foreign affairs, as well as to put them into context. After all, the context around these numbers may be the most important part of
understanding why the results look as they do, and to understand how they may trend into the future.
This survey was conducted from September – November, 2012. It was commissioned by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and carried out by Media Research. The sample size is 1,500, and the margin of error is ±2.5% at the 95% confidence level. It employed the random digit dialing method for mobile and landline telephones, as well as an online survey.