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South Koreans See Improved Security, Confident in US Security Guarantee

RESEARCH Public Opinion Survey by Dina Smeltz, Karl Friedhoff, and Lily Wojtowicz
William Warby

A survey from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs reveals the South Korean public sees an improvement in their country's security.

Introduction

Support for South Korea developing its own nuclear weapon appears to have waned, though a slight majority remains in favor. Despite what seems to be a slight sense of relief, the South Korean public is skeptical that either Moon or Trump can convince Kim Jong Un to fully denuclearize. 

Key Findings

Over the past 12 months, there have been more discussions between South Korean, US, and North Korean officials about Pyongyang’s potential denuclearization than at any time since the Six-Party Talks in 2006 and 2007. Exactly where those discussions are headed is unclear. But in South Korea, the public generally sees an improvement in the South Korean security situation according to a just-completed Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey. As a result, support for South Korea developing its own nuclear weapon appears to have waned, though a slight majority remains in favor. Despite what seems to be a slight sense of relief, the South Korean public is skeptical that either Moon or Trump can convince Kim Jong Un to fully denuclearize. 

  • A plurality of South Koreans (42%) say that their country’s national security situation has improved compared to four years ago.
  • A majority of South Koreans (57%) say President Moon had a greater influence on North Korea’s decision to hold denuclearization talks than did President Trump (31%).
  • But slim majorities have little or no confidence that either President Moon’s (52%) or President Trump’s (53%) negotiating abilities will result in the denuclearization of North Korea.
  • The US-South Korea alliance (36%) and US forces in Korea (20%) are the two most highly-cited factors in preventing a wide scale North Korean attack.
  • A narrow majority (54%) favor South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons, down from similar readings in recent years.
About the Authors
Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Dina Smeltz, a polling expert, has more than 25 years experience designing and fielding international social and political surveys. Prior to joining the Council to lead its annual survey of American attitudes on US foreign policy, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department's Office of Research from 1992 to 2001.
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
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
Lily Wojtowicz
Former Research Associate, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Lily Wojtowicz is a former research associate at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She's an expert on US-Russian public opinion, and previously contributed to the Council's public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers.