New VUB survey: International confidence in political breakthrough in (North) Korea reaches low point

New VUB survey: International confidence in political breakthrough in (North) Korea reaches low point

Despite recent negotiation attempts, respondents mainly in the US and Japan do not believe in better relations between the two Koreas and between North Korea and their own country.

Over the past year, two summits were held between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un. There were also three inter-Korean summits between South Korean President Moon-Jae and Kim. A survey* conducted one year after the historic Singapore Summit with 1000 respondents per country in China, Japan, Russia and the United States examined how public opinion in those countries regards the present and future of the Korean Peninsula after a year of high-level summitry. The results reveal both areas of convergence as well as discrepancies on the state of inter-Korean relations, US-North Korea relations and policy towards North Korea.

Whereas majorities in China and Russia believe that inter-Korean relations are better today than they were a year ago, pluralities in the US and Japan do not see significant change. A majority of Americans, Chinese and Russians also believe that their country should support better inter-Korean relations, and in all four surveyed countries, at least a plurality of the respondents believe that improved Inter-Korean relations will have a positive impact on their country. 

In the case of US-North Korea relations, a majority of Chinese respondents believe that relations are better today. Meanwhile, a plurality of US, Japanese and Russian respondents think that relations between Washington and Pyeongyang have not changed compared to one year ago. Nonetheless, large majorities of American and Chinese citizens think that improved US-North Korea relations will have a positive impact on their country. Moreover, a plurality in China think that their country should act as a mediator in this context.

Nuclear arsenal biggest concern
For a majority of US and Japanese citizens, denuclearization is the first priority when dealing with North Korea. They advocate a mixture of diplomacy and sanctions to achieve that end. While a plurality of Chinese citizens agree that denuclearization is key, an equal share of citizens support either diplomacy and sanctions or diplomacy only. In contrast, a plurality of Russians believe that inter-Korean peace is the most important. A majority support diplomacy only.

Commenting on the survey, Ramon Pacheco Pardo, KF-VUB Korea Chair at the Institute for European Studies, said that “The fact that there was no agreement in Hanoi even though in the build-up there were discussions about a deal, possibly including a peace declaration, has had a negative effect in public views about the diplomatic process with North Korea. The public in the countries surveyed seems to be sitting on the fence, waiting to see whether an agreement is reached or, in contrast, negotiations break down. Also, the public seems to believe that Trump is key to solve this impasse, as the survey suggests that public opinion thinks that Trump, and by extension the United States, holds the power to use sanctions, diplomacy or both to deal with North Korea.”

*The survey by Ipsos Mori was carried out in the period from 24th May - 4th June. It involved 1004 interviews in China, 1000 in Japan, 1099 in Russia and 1096 in the United States, respectively. This press release contains its key findings.


The KF-VUB Korea Chair at the Institute for European Studies is the primary contact point in Europe on policy issues related to Korea and the Korean Peninsula. A joint initiative between the Korea Foundation and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), the Chair plays a strategic role in furthering Europe-Korea relations. It builds links between Europe and Korea through a number of activities and partnerships, and contributes actively to increasing the possibilities for their future cooperation on bilateral, regional and global levels. The Chair holder is Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo who is also a Reader in International Studies at King’s College London.


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