The proportion of Japanese who single out South Korea as a country they dislike has fallen below 40 percent for the first time in two and a half years, a Jiji Press poll shows.
In the monthly public opinion survey, which was conducted for four days through Feb. 14 and released Friday, respondents were asked to name a country they have no liking for, allowing multiple choices. South Korea was picked by 38.6 percent of the total, dropping 5.1 percentage points from the preceding month.
The figure had moved between 40 and 50 percent since August 2013. It is uncertain whether anti-South Korean sentiment has been receding, but the drop may reflect recent cooperation between the two countries to take steps against North Korea for its nuclear test and rocket launch.
Negative feelings toward the South among Japanese grew sharply after Lee Myung-bak made the first-ever visit by a South Korean president to the Sea of Japan islands of Takeshima, which are claimed by Japan, in August 2012. In September the same year, the proportion of respondents who answered they did not like South Korea shot up to 43.1 percent from between 10 and 20 percent before the visit.
The “dislike rate” fell below 40 percent later but rose to 52.1 percent in May 2014, the highest reading since the survey began in 1960.
The latest survey also found that 5.4 percent of the total respondents liked South Korea, up 1.4 points.