PS: Political Science & Politics


South Korean Attitudes toward the ROK–U.S. Alliance: Group Analysis

Haesook Chaea1

a1 Baldwin-Wallace College


This article focuses on South Korean attitudes toward the South Korean-U.S. alliance by comparing three political groups. Using a nationwide survey of South Koreans conducted in 2007, it performs two quantitative analyses: cluster analysis to identify distinct political groups and regression analysis to test hypotheses drawn from literature about what influences public attitudes toward the alliance. This study draws four major conclusions about attitudes toward the alliance: (1) There is strong support for the alliance among South Koreans, including anti-American progressives. (2) For conservatives and centrists, the traditional rationale for the alliance—deterrence of North Korean aggression—remains a basic foundation for the alliance. (3) Among the three groups, there is a developing consensus on a new rationale for the alliance of promoting inter-Korean reconciliation. (4) The younger generation, which constitutes a large majority of the voting public, exhibits moderation and pragmatism in its ideological orientation, contradicting the commonly held view that it heavily slants progressive. These findings can offer important guidance for the future of the alliance.

Haesook Chae is an associate professor of political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and president of the Association of Korean Political Studies. She received a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Southern California. Her Fulbright research in South Korea resulted in this article, as well as another one published in the Washington Quarterly. She can be reached at


I would like to thank Michael Chung, Arie Chung, Christina Chung, and Neil Miller for their help and encouragement; Stephan Haggard and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft; Ramona McNeal for her SPSS technical support and Steven Kim for his help in constructing the survey questionnaire; and the Fulbright Scholar Program, Baldwin-Wallace College, and the Korea Foundation for the generous support they provided for this research project.