More North Korean defectors in the South think Kim Jong Un’s grip on power is strengthening and more than a quarter those surveyed think Kim’s rule will continue for at least 30 years.
According to the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, a recent survey of 132 North Koreans resettled in the South indicates more defectors are less confident the Kim regime is weakening, South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported Wednesday.
The survey, taken from June to August, shows 28.2 percent of defectors think Kim will remain in power for “at least 30 years,” up from 16.7 percent in 2016, when the survey was last conducted.
The latest evaluation of Kim’s rule, however, does not mean defectors believe the North Korean leader is doing the right things.
Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they think Kim is doing his job poorly, an indication the North Korean ruler has been able to consolidate his position without necessarily gaining the approval of the people.
Many defectors keep abreast of private sentiment in their country of origin through communication with relatives in the North.
But Suh Bo-hyuk, the South Korean researcher who oversaw the survey, said Kim had proved himself by growing the economy despite his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The survey also shows more defectors are less confident about prospects for unification.
More than half of the respondents, or 55.7 percent, said they “believed unification to be impossible” when they lived in the North.
Only 26 percent said they think unification is possible “within 10 years,” significantly down from 45 percent in 2016, according to the research.
By Elizabeth Shim