In Korea, no one cheers for the Japanese team

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In Korea, no one cheers for the Japanese team

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According to a survey, South Koreans would be willing to cheer on a North Korean football team in a match against China or Japan. But if the match was against the United States, most of the cheers would be for Seoul’s longtime ally.

And a Japanese team wouldn’t get many cheers no matter which country it was playing.

According to a poll of 1,000 South Koreans by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, 54.8 percent said they would support North Korea in a hypothetical football game against China. If the match was against Japan, 71.8 percent would root for the Northern team.

However, in a match between North Korea and the United States, only 38.1 percent said they would cheer for the Korean side, while 57.7 percent said they’d support South Korea’s ally.

The poll questioned South Koreans older than 18 between April 26 and 28. It had a confidence level of 95 percent with a plus or minus 3.1 percentage point margin of error.

The South Koreans’ preference for the United States appeared in other hypothetical matches. In matches against the three superpowers neighboring South Korea - China, Japan and Russia - more than 75 percent of the respondents said they’d cheer on the Yankees.

In fact, the institute conducted the same survey in February, before Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test. At the time, it was a neck-and-neck race between North Korea and the United States: 47.7 percent of South Korean respondents said they would cheer on Pyongyang against 47.8 percent for Washington.

Except for the reduced support for the North, there was little change between the February and April polls, the institute told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The survey also made plain the entrenched anti-Japan sentiment of Koreans. Japan earned less support from South Koreans in matches against all four nations - North Korea, the United States, China and Russia - earning around or less than 20 percent.

The support for Japan was lowest in a game pitting Washington against Tokyo: Only 5.7 percent supported Japan while 91 percent did Washington. Japan was even edged out by Russia, an old ally of North Korea, 22.9 to 66.3 percent.

When it came to China, North Korea’s best friend and an important economic partner of the South, the respondents showed mixed feelings.

In a match between China and Japan, 74.4 percent supported Beijing against 17.3 percent for Tokyo. In China versus Russia, more people liked China, 60.5 percent, while Russia was supported by 29.8 percent.

However, in a match between China and the U.S., things were totally different: China got only 16.8 percent, while the United States garnered 77.2 percent. China was also defeated by North Korea.

Overall, Russia recorded between 20 and 30 percent, except for the match against Japan in which it gained 66.3 percent. In a game against the U.S., its cold war enemy Russia got only 10 percent.

“Although it’s about hypothetical games, it’s meaningful because it shows South Koreans’ attitudes toward neighbor countries,” said Gang Chung-gu, the researcher who led this survey.


By Chang Se-jeong, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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