02/21/2006, 00.00
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South Korean youth don't want US action against Pyongyang

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

In the case of US military intervention without the green light from Seoul, most youth interviewed were for an alliance with Pyongyang. "This does not mean hostility towards the USA,'' said an expert in South Korean politics. "It means opposition to attempts to solve the nuclear crisis by armed force.''

Seoul (AsiaNews) – If Washington decides to attack North Korea's nuclear plants without the go-ahead from the South Korean government, Seoul should ally itself with Pyongyang. This is the opinion of 47.7% of South Korean youth as revealed in a survey conducted by the Korea Times.

The survey was carried out from 16 to 19 February on a cohort of 1000 youth who will go to the polls to vote for the first time in the 2007 presidential elections.

Out of those interviewed, 40.7% said Seoul should remain neutral in case of war, while 11.6% said they were in favour of an alliance with the USA.

"I do not think the survey results point to hostility towards the United States,'' Kim Soo-jin, politics professor of Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said in a telephone interview. "I interpret it as their opposition to any attempt to solve the nuclear crisis by armed force.''

South Korean youth were also asked about aid from Seoul to Pyonyang: 46.2% said the current level was unacceptable and 28.1% said it should be reduced. South Korea provided North Korea with 1.2 trillion won ( billion) in aid last year. The total sum amounts to 0.16% of South Korea's gross national income.

As far as links between the two Koreas go, 54.1% of youth hoped for peaceful reunification, while 35.5% said the situation could remain as it was: the important thing was peaceful coexistence.

Nearly 40% of those interviewed held that China was the most important economic partner with whom to maintain good ties. The USA came second with 18.4% and North Korea was close behind with 18%.

As for the conflict between China and Taiwan and subsequent intervention from Washington, 56.2% said Korea should remain neutral, despite the reality that the United States are considered to be the country's most important ally since they participated in the Korea war on Seoul's side from 1950 to 1953. Nearly 22% of those who responded to the survey said South Korea should cooperate with the US, while 16.8% said Seoul should oppose US intervention.

As for the 2007 presidential elections, 20.1% of respondents picked Park Geun-hye, chairwoman of the largest opposition Grand National Party (GNP), as the most appropriate candidate to become the next president. Lee Myung-bak, Seoul city mayor and a GNP member, placed second with an 18.5% approval rating, followed by former prime minister Goh Kun (14.6%), and chairman of the ruling Uri Party Chung Dong-young (8.5%).

In the upcoming local elections in May, 36% of young people favoured another woman, Kang Kum-sil, former justice minister and an Uri Party member, as Seoul mayor, even though she has not yet declared her candidacy.

Half of the respondents considered themselves progressive while 21% said they were conservative. And 43% expressed optimism about the future as opposed to 15.5% who said they were pessimistic.

For the 2007 presidential election, there will be 4.2 million voters more, those born between December 1982 and December 1988, given that last year, the government lowered the legal voting age to 19 years.

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