Last month, a nationwide survey of 3,000 people by the Cabinet office found that the percentage of Japanese who do not view South Korea on friendly terms rose to 59 percent, up by 23.7 points from 2011. The sharply negative shift appeared to reverse over a decade of warming relations between the two countries. Those stating they feel an affinity toward Korea, meanwhile, declined by 23 points to 39.2 percent — the first time in 15 years that the rating dropped below 40 percent.

The shift in Japanese opinion largely reflects the abrasive policies of South Korea’s soon-to-be ex-president Lee Myong-bak, who many feel has taken an unnecessarily confrontational position on claims over the disputed islands of Takeshima (Dokdo in Korean), as well as pressing demands for an unequivocal apology over the wartime sex slaves issue.

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