U.S. battlefield nuclear weapons in South Korea were removed in 1991, but since then North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and achieved alarming success in its ballistic missile program. Based on reports, the North has the capability to produce several dozen nuclear bombs.
"It's not really a good solution for a country like South Korea to remain non-nuclear when its neighbors are becoming nuclear and becoming quite aggressive," said Anders Corr, a former government analyst and principal at consulting firm Corr Analytics.
Polling done by Gallup Korea has shown nearly 60 percent of South Koreans would support nuclear armament, according to Yonhap news agency. The largest support is found among residents age 60 and above.
Some suggest that the opinion surveys reflect the anxiety level of some South Korean residents about what the true aims are of North Korea's Kim Jong Un, an unpredictable and brutal leader known for taking risks. The 33-year-old dictator has become more forceful in threats and stepped up the regime's missile testing program even as the communist country struggles against increasing sanctions.
"Given the situation we're now facing a nuclear-armed North Korea, maybe it is time for the United States to really take a look at this option," said In-Bum Chun, a retired lieutenant general in the Republic of Korea Army and now is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.