The Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye in March 2017. Shortly after, the People for Successful COrean REunification (PSCORE) surveyed 150 North Korean defectors both online and offline. The survey looked into their perspective on the South Korean political situation and investigated the common perception that North Korean defectors are conservative. It focused on four topics – Park’s impeachment, South Korean policy towards North Korea, the security of the Korean peninsula, and the next administration’s policy toward North Korea.
On the question of Park’s impeachment, 60.0% of the respondents answered that it was “a good thing / the right thing to do.” This number is nearly triple the percentage of respondents who answered that the impeachment was “wrong” (20.7%). The percentage of respondents who answered “neither” was 19.3%, similar to the respondents who had a negative view on Park’s impeachment.
The survey results showed that the longer the defectors stayed in South Korea, the more definite their views on Park’s impeachment. In addition, the older the respondents, the more negative their stance was toward Park’s impeachment. By contrast, the younger the respondents, the more positive the response.
Of these respondents, 20.0 percent said they participated in political demonstrations regarding the impeachment; either at the anti-Park or the pro-Park protests. They also responded that the court’s upholding of the impeachment did not have a significant impact on their current opinions.
In regards to the Park administration’s policy toward North Korea, defectors expressed more negative than positive views. 34.0% of respondents were positive towards the administration’s policy toward North Korea. 42.0% were negative. The ratio of respondents who answered that the Park administration made active efforts regarding North Korean human rights policy was as low as 24.7%, against 49.4% who answered that the Park administration’s approach to this issue was either passive or entirely lacking in endeavor.
Next, only 13.3% of the respondents answered that the security of the Korean peninsula is stable. On the other hand, 63.4% of the respondents expressed uneasiness when asked about the security of the Korean peninsula. These respondents conveyed that the decision to deploy the high-altitude missile defense system in South Korea fueled their anxiety. While 59.3 percent of the respondents said they favored the placement, 28.7 percent stated that they objected to it.
The survey also investigated the necessity of unification, post-impeachment, through questions related to the government’s policy toward North Korea. 54.0% replied that they should be unified quickly, while 38.0% responded that, although reunification is necessary, the speed at which it happens ought to be regulated.
Although this survey cannot represent the opinions of all North Korean defectors, it allows us to gain understanding on their general stance regarding these issues. The results show that many defectors are critical of the previous administration and want the current administration to have a firmer policy toward North Korea.
Other surveyed items: