Landscape of the minds of South and North Koreans: unification perception, mutual recognition and the possibility of cultural integration
Cultural integration based on the people’s consciousness, emotions, values, attitudes, and so on is the determinant of the persistence and validity of political, economic and institutional unification. Thus, it is paramount for the unification of South and North Korea in which the people have long lived separately in two absolutely different and hostile systems. However, the analysis of various surveys reveals a huge gap between South and North Koreans in terms of unification perceptions, mutual recognitions, and acceptability toward each other's culture. While one out of every four South Koreans feels that unification is either not needed or is impossible, the overwhelming majority of North Koreans consider unification necessary. There is a marked difference in the North and South Koreans’ receptiveness towards each other, and North Koreans are bewitched by the Korean wave (Hallyu) while South Koreans shun North Korean culture. The gap in the landscape of the minds of South and North Koreans is growing over time. This reality shows the possibility that the inter-Korean integration process might cause serious discordance between the people of two Koreas and new social conflicts. Efforts need to be made in advance to clearly recognize this reality, to learn from the experiences of precedent post-socialist countries, and finally to use all these lessons for the peaceful future of inter-Korean unification.
KEYWORDS: inter-Korean unification; unification perception; mutual recognition between South and North Koreans; cultural integration; Soviet nostalgia
Moonyoung Lee is an associate professor (Humanities Korea) of the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies in Seoul National University.