Fifty-nine out of 100 Japanese were cheering for World Cup cohosts South Korea after its historic advance to the semifinals, according to a Kyodo News survey.

Of the 59 who said they were cheering for South Korea, 46 said this is because South Korea is Japan’s cohost in the May 31-June 30 World Cup soccer finals and because the country is part of Asia. Others said they were drawn by South Korea’s fervent performance.

The questionnaire was given to 100 people throughout Japan. Male and female respondents between the ages of 13 to 77 took part.

A 53-year-old man from Gifu Prefecture expressed hope that South Koreans, as fellow Asians, would humble the leading soccer powers.

Pollees indicated that the World Cup has boosted the image of South Korea. A 50-year-old woman in Oita Prefecture said times have changed since her parents’ generation, which harbored negative views of South Korea.

A 28-year-old woman in Hokkaido said she now sees South Korea in a different light and said the country appears to have a different spirit than Japan.

Another 34 respondents held back support for South Korea. A 21-year-old man in Kyoto Prefecture expressed frustration over Japan’s early exit in the knockout stage and said he would have rooted for South Korea had Japan advanced further.

Some respondents voiced disinterest toward South Korea. A 49-year-old woman in Nagasaki Prefecture said she feels uneasy with the idea of supporting South Korea simply because they are cohosts.

A 55-year-old man in Aichi Prefecture said he felt support for South Korea was going overboard, and a few others cited historical friction.

Seven pollees could not make up their minds. One of them, a 24-year-old woman in Nagano Prefecture, said she had doubts about the refereeing.

Regarding Japan’s World Cup performance, 51 respondents praised it as a “job well done under pressure” and a successful “fulfillment of its obligation as World Cup cohosts.”

But the other 49 said Japan could have done better.

Susumu Kohari, a University of Shizuoka assistant professor well-versed in Korean affairs, said South Korea’s unforeseeable World Cup performance must have won over many people in Japan.

Kohari said the World Cup has added a new perspective to Japanese-South Korean relations and can be taken to mean bilateral ties have matured.

Bilateral mask ties

An Osaka medical equipment maker created the red face mask for South Korean defender Kim Tae Young similar to the one worn by Japan’s own masked player in the World Cup soccer finals, according to a J. League team.

The request for a protective face mask like that of Japanese defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto was relayed by Kim’s teammate to an Osaka-based medical equipment maker, the J. League first-division team Kashiwa Reysol said.

Kim, 31, suffered a broken nose in the South Korea-Italy World Cup quarterfinal June 18. Miyamoto had sported a black face mask to protect a broken nose.

Kashiwa staff said the request was relayed to Japan by South Korean midfielder Yoo Sang Chul, 30, who plays for Kashiwa. On Wednesday night, Yoo phoned their Korean interpreter, Kento Takahashi.

Kashiwa immediately searched for the firm that made Miyamoto’s face mask.

The mask was created in time for South Korea’s training the next day ahead of last Saturday’s quarterfinal match with Spain, which was defeated.

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