National / Politics

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.