Despite growing tensions, only 36 % Americans know where North Korea is
As tensions between United States of America and North Korea keep increasing, especially following a series of missile tests conducted by the latter and the former calling on the world to impose stronger sanctions, it would be assumed that discourse related to it in the US would be more informed.
But according to the latest experiment conducted by a group, following a request by The Newyork Times, a leading national daily in the US, of the 1,746 adults who took part in it only 36 per cent could tell where North Korea was located.
The rest of the answers varied from thinking it was in India, China along with a host of other Asian countries, to as far as Australia.
The knowledge of the positioning of the country had a direct relationship with what policies they thought their country should follow with respect to the Asian country.
According to the results, those who knew the country's exact location preferred more diplomatic and non-military strategies such as imposing further economic sanctions, increasing pressure on China to influence its neighbour and even conducting cyberattacks against its military installations.
And this group stayed away from choosing direct military engagement against North Korea as well as the option of not doing anything about it. While those who could not find it where more open towards both these options.
According to the newspaper, these findings are similar to the results of a similar experiment conducted during the increase in tensions between Russia and the US, after the former had supported the separation of the state of Crimea from Ukraine.
That experiment had asked the people to identify Ukraine on a map and whether they supported a military intervention from the US. According to those results too, the farther the respondents was from the actual location of the country the more likely they were to support military intervention.
Which groups did best?
Three categories of people- Republicans, more educated, and older people- came out better when it came to identifying the location of North Korea on a world map.
Republicans, especially men, were able to locate it more correctly compared to those from the Democrat's side. Where as women from both the parties had the same per centage. And the Republicans were also more in favour of almost all diplomatic solutions which the researchers had posed.
Education was the other major factor when it came to locating North Korea. Post graduate degree holders had more success in locating the country except for the group that said they knew someone of Korean ancestry. Another group that was successful was made up of those who had visited foreign countries.
And after the highly educated, the second most successful group was made up of older people with nearly half of the respondents who were 65 or older found the located it correctly.
Such geography skills are not new for Americans
In a survey conducted in 2006, while the Iraq war was going on, six out of 10 young adults were not able to locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East and 75 per cent could not correctly find Iran or Israel and more surprisingly only half could find the New York state.
According to the paper, in "Why Geography Matters," Harm de Blij wrote, "the American public is the geographically most illiterate society of consequence on the planet, at a time when United States power can affect countries and peoples around the world."
And geographers believe this can leave citizens without a framework to think about foreign policy questions more substantively.
Alec Murphy, a professor of geography at the University of Oregon, is reported to have said, "The paucity of geographical knowledge means there is no check on misleading public representations about international matters."
But, irrespective of political views most Americans hold a remarkably consistent view on North Korea, with the latest survey by YouGov showed that the country topped the list of 144 countries described as 'enemy' of the US and a Gallup study showed it as the least favourite country of the Americans.
Though such low interest in their country among Americans is not the case when the roles are reversed.
The Newyork Times quoted Barbara Demick, the former Bejing bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times, from her interview with the New Yorker, where she said, "North Koreans are obsessed with the United States." She added, "They hold the U.S. responsible for the division of the Korean peninsula and seem to believe that U.S. foreign policy since the mid-20th century has revolved around the single-minded goal."