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Poll shows S Koreans reluctant to shoulder unification cost

While more than 70 per cent of South Koreans support eventual unification with North Korea, almost half have no interest in helping cover the massive estimated financial cost, a survey said Wednesday.

SEOUL: While more than 70 per cent of South Koreans support eventual unification with North Korea, almost half have no interest in helping cover the massive estimated financial cost, a survey said Wednesday.

The poll of 1,001 people found that 72 per cent backed the idea of a unified Korean peninsula, although 46 per cent said the merger should be a "gradual" rather than swift process.

But when it came to paying for it, 44.3 per cent said they had no interest in sharing the cost.

Around 54 per cent said they would be willing to contribute, but only 22 per cent would cough up more than 50,000 won ($48) a year.

The survey, released by the Unification Ministry, was commissioned by a research institute at Seoul National University and conducted by a polling firm between November 28 and December 16.

Forecasting the cost of unification is an almost meaningless task, given the large number of possible scenarios under which a merger might occur.

As a result, estimates vary wildly, with the only real consensus being it would be far from cheap.

Last year the South Korean Finance Ministry said reunification -- assuming it took place in 2020 -- would cost up to seven per cent of South Korea's annual GDP for a period of 10 years.

That would mean something in the region of 85 trillion won ($83 billion) a year for 10 years -- and that's assuming a peaceful unification scenario, which is by no means assured.

President Park Geun-hye has offered a counter-narrative by talking up the "bonanza" to be reaped from reunification through the marriage of the South's capital and technology with the North's human and natural resources.

But such an optimistic outlook has struggled to gain traction, especially among young South Koreans.

North and South Korea came into being as separate states in 1948 and the 1950-53 Korean war sealed the division.

Reunification has been a stated priority for both Seoul and Pyongyang since then, and is enshrined in both their constitutions.

But the emotional tug is weaker among younger generations who grew up in a divided peninsula and see the North more as a foreign country than a lost part of their own.

The latest survey gave no breakdown of the response within different age groups, but one carried out last year by the Hyundai Research Institute showed that 55 per cent of those in their 20s and 30s had no interest in unification.

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