SEOUL — As the six-nation talks on North Korea open in Beijing, a new survey of South Koreans shows rising anti-Americanism and a small decline in concern about the threat posed by the Pyongyang regime.

While seven in 10 South Koreans still think the North is a danger to the region, anti-American sentiment in young people has risen 20 percent since last July, according to a report released Saturday by the nonprofit Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

In July 2002, 51 percent of South Koreans between 18 and 29 had a “somewhat” or “very” unfavorable view of the United States. By May of this year, 71 percent of young South Koreans expressed such views.

The results are taken from a larger report — the Pew Global Attitudes Survey — that polled more than 65,000 people in 44 nations. In South Korea, the polls were completed by telephone with native Korean speakers.

In most of the nations surveyed, critics of the United States said their opinions mainly reflect opposition to President Bush. But in South Korea, 72 percent of those who hold unfavorable views of the United States expressed “general hostility,” one of the report’s authors said in a telephone interview.

“With the upcoming talks, we thought that we could offer a new slant on the situation. The numbers were pretty interesting, particularly in the age breakout that shows rising anti-Americanism among young people," said Nicole Speulda, a project director who helped design and analyze the poll and write the report.

According to the survey results, more people in several Western nations — including Australia, the United States, Germany, Great Britain and Canada — felt threatened by North Korea than did South Koreans.

“It was a bit surprising that South Koreans felt less of a danger from the North than other nations. In the United States and other countries in the survey, we saw a much greater concern and much more press about nuclear weapons,” Speulda said.

The report also found that 76 percent of South Koreans believe the United States does not take into account South Korean interests when making foreign policy decisions. And more than half of the South Koreans surveyed said using force against countries that may seriously threaten South Korea, but have not attacked it, “rarely” or “never” is justified.

The rise in anti-American sentiments over the past few years stems largely from South Korea’s successes, particularly economic success since 1997, said Robert Einhorn, a senior advisor and analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a political and defense issues think tank in Washington.

“[South Korea’s] transformation into a vibrant democracy and economic success means South Koreans are much more confident in themselves and much more reluctant to remain overly dependent on the U.S.,” Einhorn said. “They are centered on a desire to have more control over their own future.”

The sentiment also stems from a “natural friction” that comes with a military presence, especially the accident last year in which two teen-age girls were crushed under an armored vehicle driven by U.S. soldiers, he said.

“That incident produced strong anti-American feelings that remain today,” Einhorn said.

South Korean analysts in Seoul offered varying interpretations of the poll results.

“Anti-Americanism here has grown since late last year, I suppose,” said Park Hyong-jung, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification. “While dealing with the North Korea nuclear problem, the United States has taken a hard-line policy, and President Bush has been a hard-liner. Many South Korean people didn’t like the idea, and they tend to blend anti-Bush and anti-Americanism.”

Park said the poll results most likely are an accurate reflection of South Korean complaints that regional foreign policy is being made without local input.

“Simply, the issue is our problem, and we do not like the U.S. way of dealing [with] the matter from South Koreans’ point of view,” he said, explaining one possible rationale for the growing anti-Americanism.

Kim Su-nam, a professor at the South Korean National Defense University, said some of the growing anti-Americanism among youth could be explained by the notion of “brethren” and its use by North Korea.

“North Korea wants to use the term ‘brethren’ a lot. That word makes us forget some important things once in a while, I suppose. Freedom, democracy and human rights are things that should be taken seriously all the time,” Kim said.

“Without even realizing the importance of those things, young people just get fooled and propagandized by North Korea. Many young South Koreans got confused and may think North Korea also has the kind of brethren mind.”

And though almost 70 percent of South Koreans say North Korea poses a threat, analysts said many citizens have become immunized to the idea.

“We’ve lived this way,” said Park. “Once you eat too much sugar, a little increase of sugar amount does not add sweet flavor. You can’t tell if it’s sweeter or not. Suppose living in Korea makes people panic, then this society would be totally ruined. People would stock everything up and leave. If everyone living here feels threatened, no one would carry on their normal duties.”

— Staff writer Sandra Jontz contributed to this report.

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