As both Seoul and Washington confront North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, a big question is the depth of the commitment among South Korean millennials to a U.S. alliance that began during the Korean War, more than 60 years ago.
SEOUL, South Korea — Derided as self-absorbed, dismissed as a “lost generation,” young South Koreans have defied their skeptics this year by spearheading the election of a new president, and helping to oust the previous one.
Now, as both Seoul and Washington confront North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, a big question here is the depth of the commitment among millennials to a U.S. alliance that began more than six decades ago, during the Korean War.
“There are clear generational differences in South Korea about the relationship with the United States,” said Noh Myung Woo, a sociologist at Ajou University in Seoul.
Older South Koreans often refer to the U.S. strategic partnership as an “alliance forged in blood,” he said. Younger generations have only read about the Korean War in history books, and do not have the same emotional attachment to the alliance as their parents and grandparents.
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Overall, South Korea’s 51 million people continue to view the United States positively, both as an essential ally and a promoter of democracy. But surveys show that South Koreans in their 20s and 30s do not view North Korea as an existential threat the same way that many Americans — and many older South Koreans — do. Many want their government to avoid provocative steps against the north and have concerns the Trump administration could inadvertently drag them into a conflict.
In a March survey of 1,000 South Koreans, the Asan Institute found that support for the United States had slipped among those in their 20s, who had previously been staunch U.S. supporters. “President Trump’s low favorability may also work against the United States moving forward,” concluded researchers for the Asan Institute, a Seoul-based think tank.
For South Korea’s millennials, 2017 has already proven to be a watershed year. In March, a South Korean court impeached President Park Geun-hye on corruption charges following months of street protests made up largely of younger demonstrators. Two months later, voters in their 20s and 30s were instrumental in electing Moon Jae-in, a liberal, as the country’s next president,…