SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- Fewer young students in South Korea perceive North Korea as an enemy than a year ago, while a larger number of them regard the North as a cooperative partner, a poll showed Tuesday.
In the poll of 82,947 elementary, middle and high school students by the education and unification ministries last year, only 5.2 percent said North Korea should be thought of as an enemy, marking a sharp fall from 41 percent in a similar survey held in 2017.
Instead, 28.2 percent of the young students agreed with the new description of North Korea as an "object to watch out for" in the latest survey.
In a similar vein, the percentage of South Korean students viewing the North as a cooperation partner rose from 41.3 percent to 50.9 percent, while 12.1 percent regarded North Koreans as people in need of help from the South, compared with 10.8 percent in 2017.
The latest poll was conducted at 597 elementary and secondary schools nationwide from Oct. 22 to Dec. 10 last year. The previous survey polled 91,316 students at 548 schools in 2017.
Asked to depict the image of North Korea, 26.7 percent of the students answered "dictatorship" in the 2018 poll, compared with 49.3 percent in 2017.
The percentage of those who gave answers such as "Korean people and unification" increased from 8.6 percent to 24.9 percent. More students described images, like poverty, assistance and cooperation, but as many as 29.7 percent chose an image of war and the military.
The share of students who believe unification of the Koreas is necessary remained almost unchanged in the 60 percent range, but more students forecast unification is likely within several years.
Asked to predict the timing of unification, 31.3 percent said "within six to 10 years" in 2018, while 31.2 percent cited "after 21 years" in 2017.
The portion of the students who expect unification within five years surged from 5.1 percent to 16.4 percent.
Older students showed a more careful and realistic attitude towards unification. Seventy-four percent of elementary students said unification is necessary, while only 54.6 percent of high school students said so.