National

Nearly 90% of Japanese agree Tokyo-Seoul relations in poor state: survey

Kyodo

Nearly nine out of 10 Japanese think relations with South Korea are in a bad place, according to a government survey, reflecting perceptions about the ongoing feud between the countries over wartime history and trade.

In the Cabinet Office survey released Friday, 87.9 percent of respondents said bilateral ties are “not good” or “not so good,” the highest level since the question was added in 1986. The figure was up 22.2 percentage points from a year earlier.

Just 7.5 percent of Japanese see relations with South Korea as “good” or “somewhat good,” down 22.9 percentage points from a year earlier.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 19 to 30, ahead of a modest thaw in tensions that includes the planned summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday — their first in 15 months.

Relations between the neighbors have recently been tested by territorial disputes and differing views of wartime history. But ties worsened sharply following rulings by South Korea’s Supreme Court in October last year ordering Japanese firms to compensate people forced to work during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Japan argues that the ruling violates international law because the issue of compensation was resolved “finally and completely” by a 1965 bilateral agreement.

The strain continued to escalate, with Japan imposing tighter export controls and South Korea announcing it would terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact.

But Seoul suspended that decision last month amid pressure from the United States, with Japan and South Korea then agreeing to restart trade talks between senior officials, indicating signs of a thaw.

Among the respondents, 71.5 percent said they do not feel “any affinity” or “much affinity” for South Korea, the most since the question was first posed in 1978. That compares with 26.7 percent who said they feel “strong affinity” or “some affinity.”

The survey covered 3,000 people 18 and over, with 53.6 percent responding.

Regarding China, 19.4 percent said bilateral ties are “good” or “somewhat good,” up 1.1 percentage points, while 80.2 percent said they felt the same way about relations with the United States.

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