Starting the Kim Jong-un’s regime from 2012, North Korea dedicated all its efforts and resources into the development of nuclear weapons. It pressed on with launching several nuclear missiles and tests, thereby threatening the neighboring countries. North Korea also stated itself as nuclear nation in its constitution.
On the other hands, Trump administration starting from 2017 considered all the possibilities of diplomatic strategies including preemptive military strike, to maximize the sanctions on North Korea. Through these measures, the Trump administration brought North Korean government to a negotiating table in the hopes of denuclearizing North Korea.
Amidst the tension, Moon administration in South Korea starting from 2017 consistently delivered the messages of reconciliation and collaboration to North Korea. In 2018, Kim expressed its will in New Year’s congratulatory messages to improve North-South Korea relationship and participate at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, bringing two Koreas into the new phases of diplomatic relationship. Afterward, North and South Korean governments held three meetings, which also led the heads of North Korea and the United States to hold the Summit for the first time in its history. The whole world paid its close attention to the four Summits held within 6 months.
Especially the North and South Korean Summit on April 27th marked the historical event where the North Korean leader come down to South for the first time. At that moment, the candid conversation between President Moon and Kim was broadcasted worldwide, leaving the deep impression onto people.
The movement of peace rose quickly in the Korean peninsula which were left at ceasefire for 70 years, bringing many achievements. Such events also changed the perceptions of people toward the reunification.
Changing the Perceptions of South Korean Citizens
While the world was concerned with the North Korea’s nuclear missile threats, people in South Korea were interested in bringing reunification as to cherish their shared heritages and ethnic identities. And yet, North Korea remained closed and off-limits for the most part, which left uncertainties to the hope of fulfilling reunification. What was discussed during the North-South Korea Summits and U.S-North Korea Summit had great impacts into bringing new perspectives into North Korea. There have been significant changes in how South Korean citizens view North Korea, as shown in the statistical data below.
º How South Korean citizens view North Korea
As seen in the data, South Korean citizens began to see North Korea more as a collaborative ally rather than a hostile enemy. Particularly noteworthy is that less people in all ages see North Korea as hostile enemies. This significant change in people’s perceptions toward North Korea can be attributed to three North and South Korea Summits, spreading the peaceful atmosphere throughout the Korean peninsula. In 2017, several threats from nuclear missile tests by North Korea heightened the tensions and brought two countries at the brink of war. In 2018, tensions between North and South Korea quickly eased when the North Korean athletes participated at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.
º Reliability of North Korean Regime
For the first time, the number of people who answered positive on the reliability of North Korean government exceeded that of people who answered negative on the reliability of North Korean Regime statistical data. That number increased dramatically between 2017 and 2018. This increase can be attributed to the will and measures North Korean regime has taken toward denuclearization after actively exchanging the conversations at the North and South Korea Summits.
º Perceptions on the Possibilities of Changes in North Korea
The number of people who answered positive to see the changes in North Korea in the immediate future, not only surpassed that of people who answered negative, after 10 years, but also marked the highest number of people. Tourists’ commentaries on the recent development and trends in Pyeongyang quickly spread worldwide via social media, which played a significant role in bringing such change in the perceptions. People are now more informed of usages of smartphones as well as fashion trends in North Korea. In contrast to the previous North Korean leaders who were often portrayed as reclusive, Kim’s striking movement also greatly impacted on the South Korean citizens’ perceptions of North Korea.
There are many hurdles to overcome in order to bring two Koreas into the reunification. As seen in the cases of German reunifications, many social, cultural, and economical aspects must be considered in prior, as two countries have changed a lot since they were separated 70 years ago. However, North and South Korea Summit in 2018 has greatly changed people’s perceptions, the most important strides toward reunification. The world is paying closer attention to see how these changes will lead to more Summits and North and South Korea reunification.
(The image of statistics is edited from the report paper of Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (IPUS), Seoul National University)
Source: Ian Seo || peaceinitiative.net