S. Koreans satisfied with Seoul's N. Korea policy: poll

SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- A majority of South Koreans are satisfied with the Park Geun-hye administration's policy line toward North Korea, a poll showed Thursday.

According to the survey of 1,200 people, 57.6 percent expressed satisfaction over current government policies towards the communist North. It is the first time since the first annual survey in 2007 that the approval rating has topped the 50 percent mark.

The findings also mark a sharp about-face in the public's view of the government's policy towards the North. In the 2012 poll conducted under the previous Lee Myung-bak administration, 65.7 percent of those polled said they were discontent.

Park, who took office in late February, has stressed the importance of building trust and adhering to principles in dealing with Pyongyang. The chief executive has also stood firm in the face of saber rattling tactics employed by Pyongyang.

Her stance has been viewed as having played a role in getting the North back to the negotiating table, which has led to the reopening of the inter-Korean factory park in North Korea earlier this month. The Kaesong Industrial Complex was closed amid a spike in tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

According to the survey taken by the Institute for Peace and Unification at Seoul National University (SNU), 26.5 percent of respondents are calling for more international cooperation to get the North to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Another 25.2 percent demand the government give top priority to prodding the communist country to implement reforms and doing more to improve human rights in the isolationist country.

Of the total, only 17.4 percent say Seoul needs to do more to help the North through inter-Korean cooperation.

The SNU report, conducted for 22 days in July, shows that 54.8 percent of respondents believe unification is "necessary," with the remainder responding that unification is either unnecessary or unimportant.

The findings added that 25.8 percent believe unification will never occur and 25.3 percent expect the two sides will become one in less than 20 years. This was followed by 18.3 percent who believe unification may occur after 30 years. Just 3.7 percent expect unification to take place within five years.

The findings, meanwhile, showed around 40.4 percent view the North as a cooperative partner, down from 47.1 percent a year earlier.

Echoing this trend, 64.3 percent of those polled think the North cannot be trusted and no compromise is possible through dialogue. This view greatly overshadowed the 35.8 percent who said they believe meaningful dialogue is possible.

The poll revealed that 66 percent of South Koreans think the North can attack the South militarily, while 34 percent say such a development is unlikely. The likelihood of attack is down from the 78.3 percent reached in 2011.

The poll showed that 78.4 percent of respondents are fearful about the North's nuclear arsenal, with 52.3 percent favoring South Korea acquiring its own nuclear deterrence. Those opposed to South Korea getting nukes stood at just 19.8 percent, with the rest remaining ambivalent about nuclear armaments.

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