With nearly daily threats coming from North Korea, many South Koreans are taking a tough stance toward their country’s nearest neighbor.
A Gallup Korea poll done last week in South Korea shows nearly half of those surveyed (47 percent) say they think North Korea either will carry out a limited action aimed at provoking the South, or will start an all-out war. The same percentage (47 percent) think the North will not provoke a war.
The poll asked if South Koreans agree with a military official’s recent statement that any provocation by the North should bring a 10-times greater response from Seoul’s forces. A majority (72 percent) agreed.
However, most respondents think the South Korean government is not prepared well to respond to North Korea.
North Korea has issued a stream of threats against South Korea, the United States and Japan in recent weeks. Late last year, Pyongyang launched a rocket that the U.S. says was a disguised missile test. Last month, North Korea conducted its third nuclear weapons test, violating United Nations sanctions. The U.N. has responded by increasing economic sanctions on the isolated communist nation.
North Korea says it needs nuclear weapons to prevent an attack from the United States. It accuses Seoul and Washington of using military exercises this month as preparations for an invasion, which the two allies deny.
Partly as a response to Pyongyang’s threats, Washington recently sent long-range bomber jets to train over South Korean. On Thursday, B-2 bombers flew from the central U.S. to South Korea for a firing exercise.
South Korean blogs are active with talk about the North. Increasingly, South Koreans say their government should react strongly at a time like this. One writer said, “No matter what side or [political] party we support, we should strongly react to the DPRK.” Another said "I prefer peace but South Korea should respond strongly to the DPRK if they provoke.”
For more than a decade, South Korea has provided its impoverished neighbor with billions of dollars in aid. It currently runs a joint economic zone in North Korea, at which workers from the North manufacture goods for South Korean companies.
Many South Koreans have expressed frustration that the aid has not improved relations with Pyongyang, which in 2010 shelled a South Korean island, killing four people. That same year, Pyongyang was blamed for a torpedo that sank one of the South’s navy ships. North Korea denies being involved.