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Generational Differences in Attitudes Toward Korean Unification

For the past two decades, studies have indicated that popular support for Korean unification is dropping. However, no explanation is offered for this. This report addressed a 2012 study undertaken to examine the public opinion of South Koreans to determine which demographic factors might be influencing this drop in popular support for unification.

Because earlier studies of South Korean attitudes toward unification sampled the population in Korea, and were conducted in the Korean language, this study did as well. Factors other than age were examined, including level of education, location, and military service. Age was found to be the most dominant factor. However, rather than finding that older Koreans were eager for unification, the data showed that this group feels that unification will never happen. This group (61 and older) shows the greatest desire to either delay unification generally, or wait until there is no threat from North Korea.

As the older generation, which views the United States more favorably, passes on, the younger generation will become a larger percentage of the voting public, which may complicate future dealings with the U.S. and its military presence in the Korean Peninsula.

This study shows that age is a factor in many aspects of public opinion toward the implications of Korean unification and toward the presence of U.S. military personnel in Korea. It also reveals significant leanings about how South Koreans would deal with the continued presence of U.S. military forces after unification

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