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Sources of Influence on Perceptions of South Korean Youths about Unification of North and South Korea

The purpose of this research is to explore what information sources are influencing the perception of south Korean youths about unification between North and South Korea. The Research Examined the sources and the tone of message which the youths receive from non-school sources such as family, peers, teachers, religious institutions and media. The research methodology combined a survey with interviews. Questionnaires were collected from a total of 273 students in 3 high schools located in metropolitan ares of Seoul in South Korea. Interviews with a student and a unification education lecturer who is a North Korean defector were also conducted. SPSS was used to analyze questionnaires with descriptive analysis, correlation, and multiple regression. Interviews were analyzed for emerging themes. The findings showed that the media and teachers were the primary sources of information about unification. In terms of feeling about messages, students feel that their peers provide mostly negative messages whereas their teachers and religious institutions are more positive. Both media and family were judged to provide about equally negative and positive messages. The students feel that the overall tone of messages from all sources is about equally balanced between positive and negative messages. Lastly, 56% of students have negative feelings about North Korea and unification, which reflects the messages from peer groups. Teachers' positive messages are not very related to students' perception s on unification and North Korea. Among media, movies are a strong influential source in the formation of perceptions toward North Korea. All the information sources such as family, teachers, peers and media equally affect students' feelings about North Korea and unification. Media that students heavily rely on for information are not the exclusive factor contributing to the most personal feelings. My findings suggest that high school students need unification education in formal school curriculum since teachers' messages are not through official curriculum but through informal communications. Without formal education about unification, students tend to rely on other information sources. Also, to positively influence the narrative of unification, unification education needs to expand to adults through civic education. This research supports the necessity of unification education for South Korean youths and adults as a way of achieving unification.
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