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Reunification less important to younger S Koreans

A united Korea has always been the dream of many on both sides of the border. But reunification has now become a less important issue to younger South Koreans.

SEOUL: Exactly 64 years ago, North Korean forces attacked the South, resulting in the three-year Korean War.

An armistice was signed in 1953 to technically end the Korean conflict.

But a peace treaty was not signed then, and has never been signed to officially end the Korean War.

A united Korea has always been the dream of many on both sides of the border. But reunification has now become a less important issue to younger South Koreans.

Seminars with a unification theme are usually held at this time of the year, such as one recently held by Yeoncheon county, which is located near the demilitarised zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas.

Kim Kyu-sun, mayor of Yeoncheon county, said: "Now, the DMZ which symbolised the tragedy of our division and pain has given us hope as it becomes a global ecological treasure. It is becoming our county's vision for the future and is symbolic to achieve unification ‘bonanza’.”

The DMZ, a no-man's land, is considered an ecological paradise full of diverse plants and animals. But it is also looked upon as a spring of hope for Korea's eventual reunification.

More than six decades ago, Yeoncheon in Gyeonggi province was the site of hard-fought battles during the Korean War.

In recent times, it is also where South Korean military exercises are often held, irritating the North.

But across Yeoncheon and South Korea, there has been more talk of reunification in the country -- after President Park Geun-hye said in April that an "economic bonanza" would result from the unification of the two Koreas.

But some Koreans , especially the younger ones, do not agree.

One Korean, Lee Joo-won said: "Our economic standards are different. And so it will be difficult for us if we reunify -- I believe it would be better if we don't unify."

Another, Han Byung-keun, said: "If the economic and political conditions are different, I don't think it's necessary to go through pains to reunify."

Among those who saw the need for reunification, there were conditions attached.

Lee Eun-hee said: "I think we can reunify after having thought this through a lot and coming up with measures. But we need to get rid of obstacles first. If we try to reunify quickly, it will bring chaos to both sides."

A survey conducted by major daily Chosun Ilbo earlier this year showed that slightly more than 30 per cent of the nation thought the benefits of reunification would outweigh the cost.

More than two thirds did not think it would benefit individual Koreans.

With time, the legacy of the three-year Korean conflict is slowly being forgotten, and to many young Koreans, it is like a war that happened in another country. 

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