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Bad feelings dominate Japan-South Korea public sentiment

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Nearly 80 percent of South Koreans have a negative impression of Japan, while about 40 percent of Japanese have an unfavorable image of South Korea, according to the results of a bilateral poll released Tuesday.

The first joint survey conducted by Japanese think tank Genron NPO and South Korean think tank East Asia Institute found that the major reasons behind the negative feelings are the territorial dispute over a couple of rocky islets, called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, and differences in historical perceptions.

“To sum up the results, as of today in 2013, the relationship between Japan and South Korea is bad,” Wonchil Chung, a senior research fellow at the South Korean think tank, said at a news conference in Tokyo. “(Our) concern is that there were many negative opinions over the future of the bilateral relationship.”

Around 40 percent of both the Japanese and South Korean respondents said their impression of the other country went sour in the past year.

The survey covered 1,000 Japanese aged over 18 and 1,004 South Koreans aged over 19 between late March and April 15.

Based on the results, the two entities plan to hold a roundtable discussion Saturday in Tokyo, inviting Japanese and South Korean politicians, journalists and prominent figures from the private sector.

The think tanks said the primary reasons behind the unfavorable cross-border images are a lack of basic understanding of each other due to inadequate direct communications between regular people and the dependence of the citizenry on their respective domestic media for information about the other country.

About 90 percent of both the South Korean and Japanese respondents said their source of information on the others country is domestic media, and TV is the single biggest news source.

A total of 50.3 percent of the South Korean pollees said Japan is currently is under military rule, while about 40 percent of Japanese see the current South Korea as excessively nationalistic.

Meanwhile, 36.2 percent of the South Koreans said they feel closer to China than Japan. Only 13.5 percent of the South Korean respondents said they feel more closer to Japan than China.

On the contrary, 45.5 percent of the Japanese respondents said they feel closer to South Korea than China, while a mere 5.9 percent felt closer to China.

“The problem is that even though cultural interaction between the citizens (of both countries) has deepened (in the past years), people get riled up by political issues. . . . We need to nurture more citizen-level talks,” said Kazuo Ogura, a former Japanese ambassador to South Korea.

Japan-South Korea ties were strained last month after more than 100 Diet members, including three Cabinet ministers, visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on April 23 during its spring festival. The South Korean foreign minister canceled a trip to Japan in protest.

  • Honey

    Anyone knows where I can find the source of that poll? I need the source for my university papers.

    • Tsuneo Akaha

      You can get the full report but it is in Japanese. I have not found an English translation and don’t know if one exists. http://www.genron-npo.net/pdf/forum_1305.pdf

      • Honey

        That’s fine, I study japanese, so I’ll just work through it somehow. =D Thanks, you helped me a lot!

  • $16493851

    I think the Japanese believe that Korean politicians play the anti-Japan card for political gain. That may be partly true, but this thinking conveniently dismisses the fact that Koreans TRULY DO FEEL ANGER about Japan’s wartime aggression and brutal colonial rule.

    Japan is angry a dozen citizens were kidnapped by North Korea. This pales in comparison of the millions kidnapped or conscripted by the Japanese government in WWII. It boggles my mind that intelligent Japanese people cannot understand Korean anger and leads me to conclude that the Japanese cannot admit shame or acknowledge wrongdoing. It is a cultural shortcoming in an otherwise remarkable and beautiful society. My Japanese friends tend to rationalize and make excuses for why Japanese actions were acceptable during that time period, or how the Japanese wanted to develop their Asian neighbors through war and conquest. But it is better to admit wrongdoing, come to terms and move on. Like a 12 step program, admitting is the first step.

    • ChianDC

      Come on, Japan also invaded the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam, etc. Do we (I’m Filipino) feel the same way? No we don’t! And you don’t hear such rhetoric from us. WWII happened a long time ago, and though we will never forget it, we do not live in the past.

      The issue between Korea and Japan is more complex than that.
      Firstly, it is like the rivalry between brothers (like the Historical rivalry between England and France, or France and Germany), that was clouded for a long time by a little brother complex of Korea.

      • Henro1988

        Japan invaded the PI, but they COLONIZED Korea. There is a large difference.

      • MeTed

        Japan invaded Korea. Colonized it for about 50 years. Made the people use the Japanese language over Korean. Forced many Koreans to move to Japan. And brutalized the population among many other things. The Koreans have a right to be angry about Japan’s denials.

    • Hanten

      Most Japanese people I know feel no complicity with the Japanese military of early to mid-20th century. How would they even know much about the wartime atrocities when that history was so whitewashed for so long here in Japan?
      As for accepting blame, try criticisng anyone, Japanese or gaijin, and generally your Japanese friends will try to justify their behaviour. They want you to see the other person’s point of view and will struggle valiantly to get you to do that. That’s a very Japanese style of reconciliation.

    • herewegoagain

      I agree with ChianDC’s comment. Japan invaded various countries then, yet it’s basically Korea and China crying about it nowadays. Korea and China hold grudges against Japan ’cause they need to. It’s their crutch. To think otherwise would be foolish. Honestly, I think Japan should sever ties w/ Korea, do us all a favor.

      • $16493851

        So if I were to rape your mother and you found me decades later denying it, telling you to let bygones be bygones, would you be a crybaby about it or would you drop the issue like a nice boy. Careful, as your answer could impact the safety of your mother, lol.

      • herewegoagain

        So I’m guessing the Vietnamese should complain about what those Korean soldiers did during the Vietnam war, huh? It’s the same thing.

      • Agniel

        Korea’s President Kim went to Vietnam and gave a speech in which he apologized for the bad conduct of INDIVIDUAL soldiers. Today South Korea and Vietnam enjoy warm relations. When is Japan’s Prime Minister or Emperor coming over to Korea to appologize for the INSTITUTIONALIZED exploitation and brutality Japan perpetrated on Koreans? The Japanese seem incapable of manning up and admitting mistakes the way the Koreans have.

      • $16493851

        Denying wartime atrocities is Japanese politicians’ crutch. If Japan atoned for its crimes, taught history accurately and stopped Yasukuni visits, there would not be a peep from the other side. It takes two. Koreans and Chinese would not be ‘crying’ about anything if Japan did not provide the fodder.

      • blahblahblah

        I doubt that. Korea and China will find something else to complain about. Kind of agree with ChianDC on this one, maybe Japan severing ties with Korea would do some good for the region.

      • herewegoagain

        All those countries (especially Korea) do is cry, like what you are doing now.

  • John Meyers

    “Over half of South Koreans think Japan is under military rule”

    And people say Americans are ignorant…

  • http://www.facebook.com/julius.marold Julius Marold

    I believe that if the two think tanks were to go a little deeper into their questioning, they’d find that the respondents opinions were largely shaped by the media they use e.g. newspapers, internet, TV. South Koreans know very little about Japan and the Japanese know very little about South Korea. You will see very little on the TV of either country about the other unless it is related to Takeshima/Dokdo or is highly negative about the other country which coincides with the broadcaster’s philosophy. And yet people will form their opinion of an entire country based and a short and heavily biased news report. -JJM

    • http://www.facebook.com/dominic.yusoff Dominic Yusoff

      Disagree a little bit on that. South Korea should be well-known due to the popularity of South Korean drama and music. Heck, Korean TV dramas are shown on NHK. There were even complaints from some rightists that some TV channels show too much Korean shows. You are right though about biased media reporting.

      • http://www.facebook.com/julius.marold Julius Marold

        I was going to mention that in my post but felt it was getting a little long. The TV shows though are all fictional dramas which are meant to entertain and don’t really show the opinions and feelings of Koreans. BS1 does have an occasional KBS news broadcast of selected stories but that’s more for Koreans living in Japan than for Japanese consumption. I doubt you will see much about Japan on Korean TV unless it is negative. The old wounds are continually reopened instead of being allowed to heal. Visiting Yasukuni doesn’t help either.

  • arctictropic@hotmail.com

    Koreans look up to Japan as a insensitive “big brother” nation. They respect Japan immensely by duplicating its economic success model. They would never admit it publicly but they just want an applology for

  • Will H.

    The main problem is that the large Asian countries are fighting for power. neither one wants to look weak so the keep bringing up the same issues over and over. while Japan has done wrong, most of those who were even alive in the war are already dead. it is kind of the same in Korea the issue is old and there are no longer people who should really have to apologize. what Japan and Korean should do is focus on their similarities and interests instead of age old wounds. this will help to bring the two together.

  • JohnnySmith0

    I’d say this is mostly politicized. It is convenient for the power-holders to instill a view of an easy enemy so that they can control the population better.