There are about 30,000 North Korean defectors living in South Korea. A new study by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has found that almost half of them have suffered discrimination, in the form of bullying, or differential treatment in the workplace, or even straightforward abuse.
So are the South Koreans now so unsympathetic to their neighbours to the north that they no longer see them as fellow countrymen? Have the two Koreas drifted so far apart that reunification is no longer inevitable?
Once upon a time, it was generally regarded as inevitable that the two Koreas would eventually reunify. Most people didn’t even imagine an alternative outcome. The political rhetoric between the regimes in Seoul and Pyongyang was delivered at very high velocity, most certainly, but that was proportional to the shared ethnic brotherhood that leaders in the two capitals knew would, if left recklessly untended, transcend the DMZ, a particularly artificial frontier construct in a world bursting with arbitrary post-colonial dividing lines.
Since the turn of the 21st century, however, the discussion has changed. Now it is possible to imagine the two Koreas never unifying. Lots of people are doing it. In part, this is because the people have changed. Recent and not-so-recent survey data suggest that a widely mooted identity and attitudinal gap within South Korea is getting inexorably wider. Young South Koreans are, for now, disinterested in unification...
And, from the International Journal of Intercultural Relations:
This paper examines how national identity is associated with South Koreans’ attitudes toward North Korean defectors and their opinions on the relationship between two Koreas. Using a nationally representative survey, we find that individuals high on ethnic identity are more likely to harbor negative attitudes toward migrants from North Korea and less likely to believe that the reunification between two Koreas is necessary. The findings suggest that alleged common belief in “one nation, two countries” notwithstanding, political division has led South Koreans to regard North Korean citizens as an out-group, who are not clearly distinguishable from non-coethnic immigrants.
I'm not sure what someone "high on ethnic identity" would be like ("Hey! I'm a Korean! Wheee!"), but the message is clear enough: North Korea may dream of re-unification, but for many South Koreans it's not that big a deal.