Credit: Public domain.
In Gallup Korea’s semi-regular survey asking the relative importance of the four major countries surrounding South Korea - United States 미국, China 중국, Japan 일본 and Russia 러시아 - the US was the overwhelming favorite: 75% said the United States was the most important country for the peace in the Korean Peninsula, while 13% answered China.
The proportion of people answering China had risen sharply into the mid-30s in 2013, when then-President Park Geun-hye 박근혜 visited Beijing to attend a military parade by China’s People’s Liberation Army with Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Then the perceived importance of China dropped into the teens in 2019, as China intensified the economic sanctions against South Korea in retaliation for the deployment of the terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) missile battery. In contrast, the perceived importance of the US, which was in the mid- to high 50s until 2018, began shooting up.
For the question asking which country was the most important for the South Korean economy, the US led again with 52%, with China coming in at 37%. Also notable is the near-total irrelevance of Japan in the minds of the Korean public: only 1% said Japan was the most important country for Korean peace, and 2% for Korea’s economy.