S. Korean People’s Sentiment toward Japan Improves Sharply

REUTERS file photo
A night view of Seoul, South Korea in August, 2020.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Public sentiment in South Korea toward Japan has improved significantly, a survey showed Thursday.

The proportion of people in South Korea who have a bad impression of Japan fell 10.4 percentage points from the previous year to 52.8 pct, marking the steepest improvement since the survey was launched in 2013, according to the survey conducted by the East Asia Institute, a non-profit think tank in the country.

Japanese people’s feelings toward the neighboring country also got better markedly, with the bad impression rate contracting 8.5 points to 40.3 pct, also the biggest improvement on record, a separate survey by Japan’s Genron NPO found.

Under their joint research initiative since 2013, the South Korean think tank conducted its latest survey July 21-Aug. 8 and received valid responses from 1,006 people aged 18 or over and the Japanese NPO July 23-Aug. 14 from 1,000 such people.

The improvement in sentiment in both countries is believed to reflect increasing public awareness of the importance of the Japan-U.S. and U.S.-South Korea alliances as well as democratic values amid escalating tensions between China and the United States, pundits said.

The surveys also showed that 81.1 pct of the South Koran respondents and 53.4 pct of the Japanese respondents find it necessary to improve bilateral relations, up from 71.1 pct and 46.7 pct, respectively.

Meanwhile, 53.7 pct of South Korean respondents said they do not have clear impressions of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and 49.8 pct of Japanese respondents said similarly regarding South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, indicating that public expectations for the two leaders have not grown.

The surveys suggest that “public opinion is demanding the governments (of the two nations) start improving their ties,” Genron NPO President Yasushi Kudo said.

Yul Sohn, East Asia Institute chief, pointed out that there is a huge gap between the Japan-South Korea relations sought by the public and those sought by their governments, stressing that it is up to the governments to narrow the gap.