Foreign Policy

Survey on North Korea Diplomacy : Americans, South Koreans Want Diplomacy Rather Than Military Engagement

In a new survey by the Charles Koch Institute and Real Clear Politics, Americans and South Koreans overwhelmingly agreed that they do not want to pursue military action against North Korea, whether or not the June 12 summit is successful in securing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

June 11, 2018

As President Donald Trump and the Supreme Leader of North Korean Kim Jong-Un prepare to meet on June 12 to discuss relations between their two countries and potential denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, the Charles Koch Institute joined with Real Clear Politics to understand how Americans and South Koreans view this summit as well as the nuclear threat that North Korea poses.

Although opinions differed between Americans and South Koreans on a few key questions, respondents from both countries overwhelming agree that military action against North Korea is not a desirable solution.

A large majority—70 percent of Americans and 81 percent of South Koreans—agreed that Trump and Kim should move ahead with the planned June 12 summit. However, most Americans (57 percent) were skeptical that relations between the United States and North Korea were improving. Meanwhile, only 37 percent of South Koreans were skeptical that relations were improving between their country and North Korea.


Americans’ skepticism about improved relations between their country and North Korea perhaps also explains their pessimism that successful denuclearization would occur over the next five years. While nearly half of South Koreans (46 percent) were optimistic about the chances for denuclearization, only 31 percent of Americans felt the same.


Furthermore, Americans and South Koreans disagreed in their views as to why North Korea had been attempting to build nuclear capabilities, with Americans being much more likely to say that North Korea was building weapons to be used offensively against their adversaries. Meanwhile, a majority of South Koreans (69 percent) said North Korea was attempting to build nuclear capabilities as a bargaining chip against the international community.

However, despite Americans’ views that North Korea desires nuclear capabilities to use weapons offensively against adversaries, only 18 percent of Americans consider North Korea to be the largest threat to world stability.


When it comes to whether or not Americans and South Koreans believe there is a military solution to relations with North Korea, South Koreans are much more likely to desire a decrease in the number of American troops in South Korea. However, the majority of both Americans and South Koreans desire to keep the same level of troops.

Despite some disagreements between Americans and South Koreans, the majority of both countries want to see continued diplomatic relations between North Korea and the United States and South Korea.

 Even if denuclearization does not result from the June 12 summit, very few Americans and South Koreans believe that bomb strikes or invading North Korea are prudent approaches.

In this survey, Americans demonstrated their desire for the United States to take a diplomatic approach with North Korea and begin to draw down its troops on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump should keep these desires in mind while preparing to meet with Kim Kong-Un in Singapore.

Survey Sampling International fielded the nationwide survey from June 4 to June 6, 2018 in the United States and South Korea. The survey had ,1000 total respondents in the United States and 700 in South Korea. U.S. respondents were reached using both random phone dials and web-based opt-in panels. South Korea respondents were reached solely through web-based opt-in panels. U.S results are weighted using broad geographic region, race and ethnicity, age, and gender. South Korea results are weighted using broad geographic region, age and gender. The survey has an estimated +/- 3.1 percentage points margin of error for U.S. respondents and +/- 3.7 percentage points margin of error for South Korean respondents.