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A record 40.4% of Japanese do not believe that their country’s relationship with South Korea is important, apparently reflecting bilateral conflicts over history issues, a Cabinet Office survey has shown.

The figure marked a new high for the second straight time, although there was a change in the survey method this time. In 2019, the proportion stood at 37.7%.

According to the public opinion survey on diplomacy released Friday, the proportion of respondents who think that the bilateral relationship is “good” or “modestly good” came to 16.6%, improving from a record low of 7.5 % in the previous survey but still remaining at a low level.

Those feeling that the relationship is “not very good” or “not good” totaled 82.4%, down by 5.5 percentage points.

“South Korea is repeating negative moves and that influenced how Japanese people are thinking,” an official with the Foreign Ministry’s Public Diplomacy Strategy Division said, citing the issues of wartime labor and “comfort women” who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II.

In the survey, respondents were also asked about what they think about Japan’s relationship with the United States. The share of those who said the relationship is “important” or “modestly important” rose 2 points to a record 97.1%.

The survey was conducted between Oct. 22 and Dec. 6 last year, targeting 3,000 people aged 18 or older. Valid responses were received from 62.2% of them.

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