Moon’s approval rating at 73 percent: Korea Times survey
By Jun Ji-hye
A majority of South Koreans support Seoul’s prompt takeover of wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops from Washington, according to a poll by The Korea Times and Hankook Research.
The institute conducted the survey on 1,000 people from Oct. 25 to 26 to mark the 67th anniversary of The Korea Times, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said South Korea needs to regain OPCON of its military during wartime at the earliest possible date, while 40.2 percent oppose the expeditious transfer.
Currently, a commander of the Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC), a position assumed by the U.S. Forces Korea commander, holds wartime OPCON of the South Korean military.
Seoul was supposed to retake wartime OPCON from the U.S. in April 2012 following a 2007 agreement during the 2003-08 President Roh Moo-hyun administration.
But the transfer was delayed to 2015 in the wake of the sinking of the South Korean Navy frigate Cheonan in a North Korean torpedo attack in March 2010. Then, President Moon Jae-in’s predecessor, Park Geun-hye, delayed the transfer again until the 2020s, citing the growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
During presidential campaigning earlier this year, Moon, who was the chief of staff for the late Roh, pledged to move up the date.
Regarding Moon’s management of state affairs in general, 73 percent of respondents gave a positive assessment, with 68.4 percent saying Moon has been doing well in dealing with foreign affairs. But the President’s work on national security received a relatively low evaluation as only 62.5 percent said he has done a good job.
When asked about the wisest measures for resolving the North’s nuclear issue, 47.5 percent support imposing harsher sanctions and pressure on Pyongyang, while 43.7 percent said it should be resolved through inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation with Pyongyang. Only 6.4 percent said a pre-emptive strike against the North should be conducted.
These results show more than 90 percent of the public want the North Korean issue to be resolved diplomatically and peacefully, rather than through the use of military power.
The results are also in line with the South Korean and the U.S. governments’ position that diplomatic and economic efforts are the preferred means over military action to resolve tension caused by the North’s threats.
But a majority of people showed a negative response to the Moon government’s move to offer humanitarian aid to the impoverished state ― 65.6 percent opposed and 32.8 percent supported it.
Notably, 59.3 percent support South Korea having its own nuclear weapons to counter the North’s threats, while only 38.6 percent said nuclear armament is unnecessary.
Amid the North’s repeated military provocations, conservative politicians including Liberty Korea Party Chairman Rep. Hong Joon-pyo have called for the nation to ask for the reintroduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons or for the country to develop its own nuclear weapons.
But the Moon government has held a negative stance on such measures, mindful of concerns that they would go against the 1991 joint declaration of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that Seoul’s nuclear armament could cause serious repercussions in surrounding countries such as a regional arms race.
Trump impact on alliance
On the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump on relations between South Korea and the United States, 65.8 percent of respondents said Trump has had a negative impact since he took office, while 31.7 percent answered he has positively affected relations.
Meanwhile, 48.6 percent said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the most responsible for heightened tension on the peninsula, while 27.2 percent chose Trump.
On the now-shuttered Gaeseong Industrial Complex in the North’s border city, 57.2 percent said the inter-Korean industrial complex should remain closed, while 40.7 percent said it should restart.
Eighty-two percent of respondents support unification between the two Koreas, though opinions regarding the timing varied ― 68.2 percent said unification was necessary but there was no need to hurry, while 13.8 percent said South and North Korea should be unified at the earliest possible date.