Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Evidence of American Misperceptions of Korea

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has recently published a Report on U.S. Attitudes Toward the Republic of Korea, authored by Victor D. Cha and Katrin Katz.   A PDF version of the study can be downloaded from the Council's Website.  Coincidentally, both authors are recent alumni of the Fulbright program in Korea!  Their study was part of a national survey by the Chicago Council and it contains some findings that should alarm those who are concerned with the health of the U.S.-Korea alliance.
The survey, conducted earlier this year, found general awareness of South Korea in the U.S. to be low.  For example, only 51 percent of respondents thought of South Korea as a democracy, compared with 40 percent who thought it was not a democracy.  This despite Korea's status as one of the most successful examples of peaceful democratic transition in modern international relations history!  Fifty percent of survey respondents thought that Buddhism had the most followers of any major religion in Korea, while only 19 percent mentioned Christianity.  Fully 71 percent of respondents did not know that South Korea is one of the United States top ten trading partners.
Findings such as these are of concern because of their impact on public support for key U.S. policies toward Korea, including the pending Free Trade Agreement, the North Korean Nuclear issue, and the presence of U.S. troops in South Korea, to name a few.  Readers of this blog will know that I am very interested in the nature of Korea's national image and the major factors shaping it, including the internet and new digital media.  The easiest way to see past posts, such as this one, is to enter "national image" in the search box to the right.
The thought that U.S. policy toward Korea might be influenced by vague and misguided public images is disturbing to me, as it should be to all who are concerned with the current and future health of the relationship between our two nations.

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