Korea on our mind?

Korea on our mind?

North Korea, a country whose people naively believe that their space rockets can land on the sun, is led by a dangerous, nuclear-possessing dictator. Kim Jong-un, who will hopefully be the last dictator of divided Korea, is threatening the world with the nuclear Armageddon and no one seems to know what the best response should be. There are two ways to solve this problem – with diplomatic means and with military means. This article will present world attitudes towards each of these possibilities.

Gallup International Association conducted surveys across 15 countries interviewing over 18,000 individuals. In each country a representative sample of adult men and women was interviewed either via telephone (4 countries; n=3,988), online (8 countries; n=9,822), via sms survey (1 country, n=1,797) and face-to-face (2 countries, n=2,500). Two questions relevant to North Korea were asked each of these populations: “In your opinion how likely is it that North Korea will use a nuclear weapon?” and “Which of these two options would you support with regards to North Korea and their ongoing nuclear and missile tests: continue to try to reach a peaceful diplomatic or a peaceful diplomatic solution is not working; a military one is needed?”

The recently released results, which represent the opinions of more than one-billion of the world’s population (Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Georgia, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, UK, USA and Vietnam), show that 43% of respondents believe that it is likely that North Korea will move forward and use a nuclear weapon, while 46% believe that they will not. On average that one in ten think it very likely.

Countries where concern is the greatest include Pakistan (51%), Germany (48%), Australia (49%), Austria (48%) and the UK and US (both 46%). Interestingly, Japan (45%) is significantly more worried than Pyongyang’s neighbor South Korea (35%). In fact, in South Korea, the country that is under the greatest direct risk, the overall ratio between the number of respondents reporting likely and unlikely is 1:2 in favor of unlikely.

Despite the fact that Russia currently is occupying parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and is heavily involved in Syria for the “restoration of the democratic rule of law”, the Russian public is the least worried (23%) of all surveyed nations.

In general, the surveys reveal that despite some tense rhetoric in recent weeks a peaceful diplomatic solution of the North Korea crisis is overwhelmingly preferred over a military solution - on average over three-quarters of those polled favored giving diplomacy more time.

A diplomatic solution is the nearly unanimous preference for Russians (96%), while Pakistan and Japan both reveal an even split – 51% favoring diplomacy, 49% military. In South Korea one in three (34%) prefer the military option, while 66% prefer increased diplomacy.

Kancho Stoychev, President of the Gallup International Association said: "This snap poll done across the world in only 10 days reflects the opinion of over one billion people and covers the two US and Russia, the two potentially the most affected countries - South Korea and Japan as well as the two EU heavy weights Germany and France. It's shows the extent to which people are worried about the nuclear activities of North Korea. Despite these fears, a clear majority prefer a diplomatic and peaceful resolution of the crisis. In Japan public opinion is split between peaceful and non-peaceful approaches which is fully understandable because, together with South Korea, Japan carries the highest risk; the logic being that it is better to solve the problem once and forever.”

Johnny Heald, Research Director at Gallup International Association, has added that “Despite significant proportions in a majority of those countries surveyed believing that Kim Jong-Un will actually use a nuclear weapon, the majority of people still want to see a diplomatic rather than military response. A military response to a leader with nuclear warheads who has previously launched intercontinental ballistic missiles is possibly considered to be too risky for many of those surveyed. Yet despite having had rockets flown over their territory it is the Japanese that appear to want a tougher response with 49% favoring a military response”.

No one knows when or if a military solution would be employed (or if it would be successful if it were). However, one thing is certain, Korea should be united into a single, democratic country. The sooner this happens the better it will be for the Korean people and for world peace.

GORBI is a regional hub for partner organizations and international clients. Since 2003, GORBI remains an exclusive member of Gallup International research network for its two decades of experience in survey research in post-Soviet Union countries, as well as Mongolia and Iraq. This data was provided exclusively to the Financial.