Kim Jong Un showed a different side of himself to the world during last Friday's historic inter-Korean summit, cutting a humble figure as he pledged to work with South Korea on denuclearization. The North Korean leader admitted that he lagged behind the South in key areas such as infrastructure and even modified his language to appeal to a South Korean audience.
After a year of increased weapons testing and bellicose threats in state media, it's a noteworthy shift in tone — and it appears to have resulted in a significant reappraisal of Kim's intentions among South Koreans. A poll released this week by MBC television channel found that more than 78 percent of South Koreans now view Kim as trustworthy.
Sixty percent had said Kim was generally trustworthy, while 17 percent said he was “very trustworthy.”
It seems to be a public opinion coup for Kim, who until recently was viewed extremely negatively by most South Koreans. One poll conducted by Gallup Korea in March found that Kim was viewed favorably by just 10 percent of the population, while 83 percent said they viewed him unfavorably.
The Gallup Korea poll was conducted between March 13 and 15, with 1,003 South Koreans over 19 contacted by telephone. It also found that a majority of South Koreans viewed President Trump negatively (67 percent), and only 64 percent thought North Korea would ever give up its nuclear weapons program.
However, the poll — which was conducted after the announcement of the inter-Korean summit — did appear to show a slowly shifting opinion of Kim, too. In 2013, Kim was viewed positively by only 4 percent of Koreans. Another poll conducted in January 2018, after Kim first made a friendly overture to South Korea, found that 90 percent of South Koreans did not think the North would ever give up its nuclear weapons.
In MBC television's poll, conducted Sunday and Monday, 1,023 South Koreans were interviewed by telephone. The poll found that 89 percent of respondents viewed the inter-Korean summit as a success. South Korean President Moon Jae-in was also viewed positively, with an approval rating over 86 percent.
South Koreans were found to be generally hopeful about a coming Trump-Kim meeting. Thirty percent said they expect the summit between the United States and North Korea to be very successful, and 56 percent said it would be somewhat successful.
More on WorldViews