A day before Round 16 in Women’s Archery at the Rio Olympics between Chang Hye-jin from South Korea and Kang Un-ju from North Korea, a South Korean national team coach suggested that the North Korean coach and the North Korean player take a photo together with their South Korean counterparts. However, probably due to the strained relationship between the two Koreas, the North Korean coach refused to pose for a group photo at first but acceded after more encouragement. Kang still declined to gaze at the lens and just turned her head toward the target. Although not facing the camera, her big smile in the photo showed her willingness to have the picture taken together with Chang and the two coaches. Despite the reality in which people from the same ethnic root cannot easily take a friendly photo together, an even stronger desire for unification seems to be held in earnest. To fulfill the desire, university students, the leaders of the next generation, are taking steps forward for a united Korea.
What does a united Korea mean to university students?
The young today are to be the new leading generation of the country someday. If the two Koreas were to be united in the next few years, or even the next few decades, it would be the current young generation that would lead the united country. While some students are taking keen interest in the unification issue, others consider it no more than a white elephant or a castle in the clouds. In fact, it has become rather widely accepted that the passage of time and economic struggles of today have estranged the young generation from the unification issue. To find out to what extent this premise holds true, the Ewha Voice conducted a survey targeting university students to ask for their thoughts on unification.
Out of the 227 university students that answered the survey, 138 (60.8 percent) answered that they agree that unification is necessary, while 43 (18.9 percent) replied that they disagree and 46 (20.3 percent) that they do not know. Those who said that unification is necessary shared their reasons: people of both Koreas are of the same ethnic group, and the current division is an unnecessarily huge drain on the military economy due to the continuing arms race between the two Koreas. Also, unification is needed for separated families, expansion of territory, increase in population, and access to natural resources.
43 students who regard unification as unnecessary gave their reasons as well: the current economic gap between North and South would result in heavier taxation on the citizens of the latter, outweighing the economic benefit gained by unification; some also said that the two Koreas have already been divided for too long, causing notable and irreversible differences between the two cultures as well as very different political and socioeconomic structures; others simply stated that they are satisfied with the status quo.
To the question of whether they think unification is possible, 96 (42.3 percent) answered “yes,” while 47 (20.7 percent) replied “no” and 84 (37 percent) said that they do not know. Among those who replied that unification is possible, 11 people also answered that unification is necessary. On the other hand, 10 people replied that unification is impossible yet necessary, and 26 that unification is both impossible and unnecessary.
On the whole, it seems that despite the common notion that the young generation of today is less interested in the unification issue than their elders, university students firmly believe that unification is necessary, and what is more, a perfectly realistic notion.