More than half of North Korean defectors believe Korean reunification is impossible

South Korean soldiers standing guard at the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, on the border with North Korea, on Aug 2, 2017.
South Korean soldiers standing guard at the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, on the border with North Korea, on Aug 2, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Nearly 56 per cent of North Korean defectors who participated in a recent South Korean survey said they thought Korean reunification was impossible while living in the North.

The Seoul National University's Institute for Peace and Unification Studies asked 132 defectors who fled to South Korea last year, and 55.7 per cent of respondents said they were pessimistic about unification before coming to the South. It marked an increase by 11 percentage points compared to the previous year's survey.

The poll also found that 26 per cent saw reunification as feasible within a decade, a large drop of about 18.9 percentage points from last year, while 9 per cent believed it would take at least 30 years to achieve reunification.

"The findings suggest a marked drop in public expectations for the reunification to occur in the near future after watching leader Kim Jong Un consolidating his grip on power," researchers said.

Mr Kim, in his early 30s, succeeded his father Kim Jong Il upon his death in 2011. Under his dictatorship, the North has been accelerating nuclear weapons and missiles programme, making itself a top concern for peace in not just North-east Asia, but also the United States.

With regard to the prospects of the younger Kim staying in power, 28.2 per cent of respondents said Mr Kim would maintain his dictatorship for more than 30 years, up 11.5 percentage points from last year. Those who said less than five years went down from the 10.1 per cent last year to 7.6 per cent.

The poll also showed that almost 70 per cent of defectors said they were not in favour of what Mr Kim was doing before they defected to the South, while just 7.6 per cent said that the North Korean leader was doing "very well".