Voices From South Korea: China, Friend or Foe?

BY Larisa Epatko  January 19, 2011 at 10:30 AM EST

SEOUL, South Korea | With Chinese President Hu Jintao visiting Washington and questions over China’s support of North Korea in the air, we visited a Seoul train station to ask South Koreans their opinions on China and its behavior. Their translated responses:

Kim Sang Im, 71

Retired farmer
Milyang

I think China is generally a good country in the way that they try to help us negotiate with other countries. As the United States is, China could be a good neighbor to us.

China is a big country with power, so if China can help South Korea than it will be a lot easier to resolve the nuclear issues. However, the way I see it is that China did not decide which countries they would help — they are meandering. So I think China should be more proactive to help South Korea.

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Baek In Hyuk, 25

Graduate student in medical microbiology
Incheon

Generally, I have a negative view toward China. Everything is mass-produced and they have a lot of imitated products. But at the same time they are a global supplier. I think they have pollution issues, too.

The negative relationship between China and South Korea is mainly due to North Korean issues. China has been too cooperative with North Korea, and I think if there is an attack then China should scold or do something with North Korea.

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Kim Jong Eun, 53

Self-employed businessman
Seoul

I think China has a negative view toward South Korea in terms of politics and military. And I think we have to have more economic exchange and trade with China. South Korea has been playing in a framework centered around the United States, so I think we have to move away from not only the United States but also toward a multilateral framework. We have to really move from confrontation to a cooperative system and dialogue not only for our generation but for the next generation.

As for the kind of role China should play in dealing with North Korea, I think we should not expect China to play a role here because it is up to us to solve these problems. I don’t think it’s desirable to expect something from other nations.

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Jeon Im Jeong, 23

University student in broadcast communications
Pusan

I think China is a big country and more than that it is a rapidly developing country with huge potential. I like Beijing because I once traveled there. In the morning, people were practicing martial arts and then they drank tea. I think they live in nature and try to stay healthy.

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Song Sun Myeong, 26

University student in urban planning
Seoul

I think China is rapidly rising. However, in terms of ethical and spiritual aspects, I think such things have not been able to catch up with their economic development. I also believe that we have a very close relationship with China and that relationship will be closer.

However, when it comes to political aspects, there are North Korean issues that we need to consider. I think China has been pro-North Korea, but they should change their stance on North Korea and follow the international trend, imposing sanctions if necessary.

Watch Wednesday’s NewsHour for more on Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the White House. View all of our reports on our World page and follow us on Twitter.