OFK Archive: Anti-Americanism in Korea–The Statistical Record

[Update 7/2006: There are signs of a modest improvement — possibly more of a backlash against the violence of the radical left — although these results hardly indicate a groundswell, nor are the questions worded in such a way as to make the data comparable to what is posted below.]

Here is a listing of some of the recent relevant polling data on anti-Americanism in South Korea, with a particular emphasis on the views of younger voters:

June 2003–Pew Global Attitudes Project / Gallup Korea.

719 adults, face-to-face. Margin of error, 3.7%.

  • 58% of South Koreans were disappointed that the Iraqi Army did not fight harder outside Baghdad, more than twice the number (26%) who said they were “happy” with the quick Iraqi collapse. This result was within the “moderate” range of opinion in the Muslim world, but far outside results in Europe or North America. In France, for example, the results were very near the opposite.
  • The “favorable” view of the United States dropped from 58% in 1999-2000, to 53% in summer 2002, to 46% in summer 2003. Of those with unfavorable views of the United States, more than 80% thought the “problem” was not just Bush, but was at least partly the result of the American people themselves. This latter figure was an outlier among nations surveyed.
  • 22% had started boycotting U.S. goods. 29% had considered it. This was the highest number outside the Muslim world.
  • Just 24% supported the U.S.-led War on Terror, also a result that fit within the number in the Muslim world.
  • However, during the same period, South Korean views of Americans actually increased from 61% to 74% favorable.

South Koreans’ political values:

  • Only 43% considered honest and competitive elections a “must,” also in line with views in the Muslim world.
  • Only 48% considered it “very important” to live in a country with a free press; fair judicary, 59%; religious freedom, 58%; free speech, 57%. Those were among the lowest survey results in Asia.
  • Given two options, which should South Korea rely on? Democratic government, 61%; strong leader, 36%.
  • “Our way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence.” 82% agree; 16% disagree. Again, the number was more consistent with African and Middle Eastern views than those in Asia, North America, or Europe.
  • On the other hand, just 7% of South Koreans want to “restrict the entry of people into our country,” the lowest result of any country.
  • 75% of Koreans, the second-highest number (over Turkey at 76%) believed that the nation’s success “is determined by forces outside our control.”

November 2004, Frontier Times / National Policy Research Center.

In the event of war between the U.S. and North Korea, 20% of South Koreans say their country should take the North’s side; another 30% were undecided. Significant differences by both age and region (in Kwangju, as many people would side with the North as with the U.S.).

  • Greatest threat to South Korea’s security: 37.1%, Japan; 28.6%, North Korea; 18.5%, United States, 11.9%, China.
  • By contrast, the company’s poll in January 2004 found that 39 percent of the respondents said the United States was the most threatening country to Korea and 33% named North Korea. At that time, only 7.6 percent of those surveyed counted Japan as most threatening. Among respondents in their 20s, 58% said the U.S. was the greatest threat; only 20% said North Korea was (for further contrast, a 1993 Gallup Korea survey found the numbers to be North Korea, 44%; Japan, 15%; China, 4%; and the United States, 1%.
  • “Of the respondents who said the United States is threatening, 29.2 percent were in their 20s and 26.4 percent were in their 30s. Only 13. 7 percent in their 40s and 8.1 percent in their 50s said the country threatens Korea. ”
  • [S]lightly more than half . . . said inter-Korean economic cooperation and South Korean aid to North Korea should continue, regardless of Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons.
  • Those in favor of this were predominantly governing Uri Party supporters in their 30s and 40s; those against were largely opposition Grand National supporters, aged 50 or over.

April 2005–Frontier Times and 21st Century Research

Telephone poll of over 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of 3.1%.

  • Greatest threat to South Korea’s security: first, the United States (29.5%); second, Japan (29.2%); third, North Korea (18.4%).
  • 44.4% of South Koreans believe North Korea’s nukes are good for Korea.
  • 45.7% of people in 20s and 50.1% of students believe the U.S. is the number one threat to Korea.

May 2005, Munhwa Ilbo / KSOI (ht: The Marmot)

  • If the U.S. unilaterally attacks North Korea, whose side should the South Korean government take? North Korea, 47.6%; the United States, 31.2%. By a narrow margin, even supporters of South Korea’s “conservative” Grand National Party believed that the South should side with the North against the United States.

August 2005, Gallup Korea / Chosun Ilbo

Survey of 833 individuals born between 1980 and 1989.

  • In a war between the United States and North Korea, whose side would you take? North Korea, 65.9%; United States, 21.8%; undecided, 12.3%.
  • Ironically, when the same respondents were asked where they’d prefer live if they lived abroad, 17.9% named Australia, 16.8% the U.S., and 15.3% Japan. “Fourteen nations including equally uninviting Iraq and Iran did better than North Korea by attracting one respondent each.”
  • The conservative Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest-circulation daily, tried to put a bright face on it, calling the results an indicator of “pragmatic patriotism.”


  1. its kinda weird…as a Korean currently living in the US…a lot of Korean teenagers listen to American music,wear Abercrombie&Fitch,learn English,admire ABC(American Born Child-(particularly Chinese and other Asians)people who are born in the US or have lived in the US for a long time) Korean celebrities like Tiffany and Tablo,and at the same time they think America is taking advantage on them and all!What in the world are they thinking?When the American troops withdraw,then obviously N.Korea will invade and attack them!Kim Jong-Il said that the Korean reunification is impossible unless the US troops withdraw from the S.Korea.He is trying to invade South Korea because everybody knows that North Korea’s military is way stronger than South Korea’s.They take this right for granted and act all anti-American?That sounds pretty stupid.The Korean War is NOT over yet,people!!!I guess this is because of all the Communist influences over South Korea now.There are a number of Commies in the media industry and they’re all like,”Oh my gosh,those Americans are trying to take over us!”.What the…

    Korean people,I don’t care if you call me “white-washed” or “yankee wannabe” or whatever.Just face it.Without the American troops,North Korea WILL invade South Korea and then South Korea would collapse. So STOP acting all anti-American like this.Americans are actually guarding our country.Can we at least show some respect?I’m not saying that we should worship Bush or anything like that,but being anti-American is just really stupid.


  2. Sometimes the conservatives play the card too. Sometimes, for many, it is just about nationalism. Even Park Chung Hee could play it for the masses. Thinking about it as nationalism also explains the irrationality of much of it too. That is why the same South Koreans would never dream of voting USFK out of the country…



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