Karl Friedhoff & Samantha Yi
When it comes to the presidential election in the United States, the South Korean public has a strong preference to see a change of administration. This isn’t really a surprise after years of Donald Trump calling for the removal of troops, demanding an unheard of 400-fold increase in host nation support, and repeatedly claiming South Korea takes advantage of the United States in myriad ways.
According to a poll from Gallup Korea (conducted September 1-3) just 16 percent want to see Trump re-elected versus 59 percent that favor Biden. Given that Pew’s recent finding that Trump’s favorability in South Korea reached an all-time low of 17 percent—down 29 percentage points from last year—this is expected.
More interesting is views of how the United States has fared under the Trump administration. A plurality of Koreans (49%) say that the U.S international standing weakened under Trump with 21 percent saying it grew stronger. And that sentiment is largely uniform across political parties and age groups—a unity rarely seen in South Korean public opinion.
Despite these uniformly negative views of Donald Trump, those views have yet to affect overall views of the alliance with the United States. Recent Chicago Council polling conducted in South Korea finds that 90 percent of the South Korean public support the alliance with the United States and 64 percent say the alliance is mutually beneficial.
But the outcome of the upcoming US presidential election will have a major impact on allies like South Korea. Learning to adapt to either Biden’s “pro-alliance” approach or Trump’s “America-first” policy. will be paramount. These opposing approaches stances will play a major role in shaping future North Korea negotiations, trade between Korea and the US, as well as the ongoing US-China rivalry.