2022 South Koreans' Perceptions of North Korean Human Rights

How do we consistently increase public awareness of North Korean human rights?


The Trends in Public Perceptions of North Korean Human Rights and the Challenges Ahead

Yoon Yeosang (Chief Director of NKDB)


Primary Questions
  • Do public perceptions among South Koreans on North Korean human rights reflect the reality of the North Korean human rights situation?
  • Are public perceptions among South Koreans of the South Korean government and its major parties (their positions and attitudes towards North Korean human rights) rational?
  • Is there a difference between how conservatives and progressives perceive North Korean human rights issues?
  • Is there a difference between the North Korean human rights policies of the conservative and progressive parties?
  • What are the reasons behind the disconnect (significant difference) between the electorate (supporters) and the policies of the parties they support?
  • What is the primary role of North Korean human rights organizations?
  • What is the underlying meaning of the repatriated fishermen case?
  • What are the changes and challenges ahead?



Difference in Perceptions of Progressives / Conservatives on North Korean Human Rights


Question

Progressive

Conservative

Interested in North Korean Human Rights, 66.5%

72.3

73.2

The North Korean Human Rights Situation is Serious, 95.5%

97.3

97.9

The North Korean Human Rights Situation is Improving, 9.4%

10.9

8.4

The North Korean Human Rights Situation is Getting Worse, 18.2%

14.5

25.9

It’s possible for the North Korean human rights situation to improve, 23.6%

29.7

17.5

It’s not possible for the North Korean human rights situation to improve, 76.4%

70.3

82.5

Prefer public-private cooperation on recording human rights violations, 67.7%

70.3

69.3

Need to Intervene- From a universal human rights perspective, 69.2%

75.8

72.0

Need for South Korean government to officially raise issue, 62.9%

62.9

68.4

Negative Affect on inter-Korean relations if issue is raised, 71.4%

72.7

72.3

Improvement Measure- International cooperation and pressure, 44.4%

35.9

55.1

Improvement Measure- Dialogue and Support, 27.1%

33.2

17.8

North Korean Human Rights Act- No effect on improving human rights, 66.5%

65.2

65.4

First priority of North Korean human rights organizations- Recording and preserving cases of North Korean human rights violations, 84.9%

86.7

84.6

Last priority of North Korean human rights organizations- leafleting campaigns to North Korea, 43.5%

30.5

57.8

Inappropriate to forcefully repatriate North Korean fishermen, 54.2%

30.9

75.4

Prefer universal acceptance of North Korean refugees in large-scale influx, 41.4%

49.6

42.5

Prefer selective acceptance of North Korean refugees in large-scale influx, 46.8%

43.0

45.8




1. Do public perceptions of South Koreans on North Korean human rights reflect the reality of North Korean human rights?


  • The reality remains the same, perceptions on the situation could be significantly changed by political stunts, such as summits; Political illusion
  • Public perceptions on the degree of interest, and severity of the North Korean human rights issue (on improvements, the possibility for Improvement, etc.) – 2018 shock, political illusion 

 

The Level of Interest in North Korean Human Rights 


Interested 66.5%; Progressives 72.3%, Conservatives 73.2%

Not interested 33.5% / Progressives 27.7%, Conservatives 26.8%



Perceptions of Seriousness of the North Korean Human Rights Situation


Serious 95.5%; Progressives 97.3%, Conservatives 97.9%

Not serious 4.5%; Progressives 2.7%, Conservatives 2.1% 




Improvements in North Korean Human Rights: From 2018 Shock to 2022 Normalization Process


Improving 9.4%; Progressives 10.9%, Conservatives 8.4%

Getting worse 18.2%; Progressives 14.5%, Conservatives 25.9%



Possibility for Further Improvement of North Korean Human Rights: From 2018 Shock to 2022 Normalization Process


Improvement is Likely, 23.6% / Progressives 29.7%, Conservatives 17.5%

Improvement is Unlikely, 76.4% / Progressives 70.3%, Conservatives 82.5%


  • Consistency returns following the 2018 reversal on whether to accept refugees – Accept Selectively (46.8%), Accept All (41.4%) / No large fluctuation in percentage of those in favor of turning away refugees (2015 9.3%, 2016 8.8%, 2017 10.4%, 2018 12.2%, 2019 15.2%, 2020 12.2%, 2021 13.1%, 2022 11.8%)

 

The South Korean Government's Response in the Event of a Large-Scale North Korean Refugee Crisis


  • Awareness of North Korean human rights-related issues – Awareness of Issues is higher than awareness of policy/Policy does not align with perception


Awareness of North Korean Human Rights Related Issues


Issue

Aware of it

First Time Hearing

Public Execution

92.6

7.4

Forced Repatriation of North Korean Fishermen

87.8

12.2

Political Prison Camps

83.6

16.4

Human Trafficking

77.9

22.1

UN North Korean Human Rights Resolution

73.1

26.9

North Korean Human Rights Act

46.0

54.0

Referring Kim Jong Un to the ICC

38.7

61.3

North Korean Human Rights Foundation

31.5

68.5

Ministry of Unification Center for North Korean Human Rights Records

28.9

71.1

Establishment and Operation of the UN Human Rights Office in Seoul

27.2

72.8

Appointment of a North Korean Human Rights Ambassador

23.6

76.4

Ministry of Justice North Korean Human Rights Documentation Office

19.1

80.9




2. Is the South Korean public's perception of the South Korean government and the major parties (regarding their political positions and attitudes on North Korean human rights) reasonable? 


Approaches are excessively plagued by politicization due to factionalism (political framing)

  • There is no gap in support from the electorate (supporters) for North Korean human rights policies among progressives and conservatives à However, there is a large disconnect with the North Korean human rights policies of the representing parties – indicating abuse through excessive political framing


    3. Is there a gap in perception among Progressives and Conservatives on the North Korean human rights issue? 

    No differences found in acknowledgement, plan of action (Partial difference found by sex and age)

  • Primary role of recording human rights violations – Preference for public-private cooperation, 67.7%; Progressives 70.3%, Conservatives 69.3%
  • The need to intervene - Intervention necessary from a universal human rights perspective, 69.2%; Progressives 75.8%, Conservatives 72%
  • South Korean government officially raising the issue – Must be raised, 62.9%; Progressives 62.9%, Conservatives 68.4%;
  • Must not be raised, 37.1%; Progressives 37.1%, Conservatives 31.6%
  • Effect of raising the issue on inter-Korean relations – Negative effect 71.4%; Progressives 72.7%, Conservatives, 72.3%. Despite this, respondents agree that the issue must be raised.
  • Top priority for advancing North Korean human rights: Exerting Pressure through Cooperation with the International Community, 44.4%; Progressives 35.9%, Conservatives 55.1%, Dialogue and support, 27.1%; Progressives 33.2%, Conservatives 17.8%
  • Does the North Korean Human Rights Act have an effect on improving North Korean human rights?
  • No effect, 66.5%; Progressives 65.2%, Conservatives 65.4%, There is an effect, 33.5%; Progressives 34.8%, Conservatives 34.6%


    4. Is there a gap in the North Korean human rights policies among conservatives and Progressives? 

    Stark differences appear.
  • Diagnosis: Severity/Level of Concern
  • Cause: Internal factors (system)/external factors (trilateral blockade)
  • Alternative: Regime Change (International Cooperation)/Self-reform (Aid and Cooperation)


    5. What causes this large gap in policy between the policies supported by the electorate (supporters) and those of the political party they support? 

    Abandonment of duty, Distrust among the public, factionalism, etc.
  • The biggest loser of the politicization of North Korean human rights issues and the polarized framing of the issue: Although the South Korean public has a rational perception of the issue, they are closed off due to the polarized framing of the issue (the danger of sinking into political rhetoric and the media)


    6. The role of North Korean human rights organizations


  • Top priority is the recording and preservation of North Korean human rights violations, 84.9%; Progressives 86.7%, Conservatives 84.6% - The lowest priority is campaigns sending leaflets to North Korea, 43.5%; Progressives 30.5%, Conservatives 57.8%
  • Popularization (promotion and education among the masses)/non-politicization/efforts to secure widespread societal support
  • There is a need for a strategy for both North Korea and North Korean human rights organizations to escape isolation


    7. The meaning underlying the results of the repatriated North Korean fishermen case


  • The response was appropriate, 34.2%; Not appropriate, 54.2%
    ; Progressives "appropriate" 55.6% / Moderates 31.8% / Conservatives 19.8%. 

    The biggest gap appears → Even rational citizens are prone to overemphasizing the polarized nature of these particular issues. When exposed to excessive emphasis on this factional logic, ideological confrontation becomes a possibility.


    8. Going forward, what are the challenges and aspects of change?


  • Aspects of Change – Current high expectations result in disappointment/prospect of strengthening factionalized politics

    Tasks going forward 
  •  How will "public perceptions" be reflected in the policies of political parties?
  • Excessive politicization due to factionalism / How can extreme differences in policy due to the structure of party polarization be overcome?
  • What role should NGOs, the South Korean government, the international community, and the media play in overcoming this phenomenon?

VISUAL ATLAS

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