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Americans Continue to Back South Korea

VP Harris and President Yoon shake hands near flags.
Reuters

A majority support using US troops to defend Seoul should North Korea invade, Council polling shows.

The American public has come a long way in its attitudes toward South Korea. Positive feelings are at an all-time high and the public remains committed to defending South Korea should North Korea invade. And while a slim majority say North Korea’s nuclear program is a critical threat, three-quarters say the United States should focus on other pressing problems besides North Korea.

Key Takeaways

  • South Korea’s favorability is at a record high in the United States. On a 0-100 scale, where 100 is very warm, South Korea’s favorability is a 61. Meanwhile, North Korea’s is 20—the lowest of any country included in the survey.
  • Seven in 10 (72%) support long-term US military bases in South Korea.
  • When it comes to defending South Korea, a majority (55%) continue to support using US troops to defend South Korea if North Korea invades.

"a line chart showing American feelings toward North and South Korea over time"

Half of Americans (52%) identify North Korea’s nuclear program as a critical threat facing the United States, down from 59 percent in 2021. This decline coincides with receding headlines about North Korea over the past year in favor of the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, and worldwide economic pressures.

"a line chart showing partisan views of North Korea's nuclear program as a critical threat over time"

Second, the general perception among the American public is that there are more important issues to be dealt with. Three-quarters of Americans (77%) say the United States should focus on other pressing problems besides North Korea. And half (50%) think the United States must learn to live with countries like North Korea and Iran possessing nuclear weapons, just as we do with China and Russia.

"bar chart showing views on how the US should deal with North Korea"

About the Author
Marshall M. Bouton Fellow for Asia Studies
Council expert Karl Friedhoff
Karl Friedhoff was a Korea Foundation-Mansfield Foundation US-Korea Nexus Scholar and a member of the Mansfield Foundation’s Trilateral Working Group prior to joining the Council. Previously, he was a program officer in the Public Opinion Studies Program at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies based in Seoul, South Korea.
Council expert Karl Friedhoff

Methodology

This analysis is based on data from the 2022 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. The 2022 Chicago Council Survey was conducted July 15–August 1, 2022, by Ipsos using its large-scale nationwide online research panel, KnowledgePanel, in both English and Spanish among a weighted national sample of 3,106 adults 18 or older living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 1.8 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items. 

Partisan identification is based on how respondents answered a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?” 

The 2022 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family and the Korea Foundation. 

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