Koreans like the Japanese less, and vice versaA survey by Korean and Japanese newspapers showed a sharp worsening in relations between the two countries, with positive feelings toward each other down by a sixth compared to five years ago.
A majority of Koreans surveyed blamed ongoing historical issues with Tokyo for souring relations. In contrast, Japanese felt negatively about Korea for several reasons. Some blamed Korea’s national character and others blamed remarks by its politicians.
The JoongAng Ilbo and Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun conducted a survey to mark the 50th anniversary of normalization of ties between Seoul and Tokyo.
Only 3.7 percent of Koreans surveyed said that relations with Japan were “good” or “very good,” down from 24.2 percent in a survey conducted by the newspapers in 2010 to mark the 100th anniversary of Japan’s colonization of Korea in 1910.
The JoongAng Ilbo surveyed 1,000 Korean adults over the age of 19 nationwide Friday and Saturday, and the Nikkei surveyed 923 Japanese over the age of 20 nationwide over the same period.
Some 78.5 percent of Koreans surveyed said relations were “bad” or “very bad” compared to 22.8 percent five years ago.
Likewise just 5 percent of Japanese thought bilateral relations were good, compared to 30 percent in 2010, and 54.6 percent thought relations were bad compared to 12 percent that year.
While 62.7 percent of Korean respondents said that Japan was to blame for the worsened relations, 67.2 percent of Japanese surveyed said that both sides were responsible.
Some 58 percent of Korean respondents said they held negative feelings toward Japan, compared to 14.5 percent with positive feelings. In 2010, 18.7 percent of Koreans held positive feelings toward Japan. Some 27.3 percent said they were impartial, down from 45.1 percent five years ago.
Among Japanese respondents, 28.3 percent had negative feelings about Korea while 16.6 percent had positive feelings. This is down by half since 2010, when 33 percent had positive feelings toward Korea. Around the same percentage, 54 percent, felt impartial in both surveys.
The reasons behind the worsened feelings toward each other varied between the two countries.
For Koreans surveyed, the ongoing historical issues were blamed by 54.8 percent, followed by the Dokdo issue at 20.1 percent, remarks made by political leaders at 16.6 percent and Japan’s national character at 7.3 percent.
In contrast, more than a third, or 35.2 percent, of Japanese respondents said they felt negatively about Korea because of Korean’s national character traits.
President Park Geun-hye and other political leaders’ remarks were blamed by 29.5 percent. This was followed by 22.1 percent that blamed historical issues and 9.9 percent on the territorial spat over the Dokdo islets, called Takeshima by Japan.
About a fifth of the Japanese surveyed, or 21.4 percent, said the issue of Japan’s sex slaves during World War II has been “sufficiently dealt with” while 42.6 percent responded that it has been “partially dealt with.” In contrast, 45.7 percent of Koreans said that the issue has “not been adequately” dealt with, while 43.7 percent said the “wounds have been aggravated.”
Some 92.1 percent of Korean and 84.3 percent of Japanese respondents said that there is a need for “effort in order to maintain a future-oriented cooperative relationship between Korea and Japan.”
To do so, 31.5 percent of Japanese said the two countries’ leaders have to hold a summit “no matter what,” compared to 17.9 percent of Koreans. In contrast, 52.3 percent of Koreans said that a leaders’ summit should happen when there is progress on the historical and territorial issues compared to 28.5 percent of Japanese.
Nearly a fourth of respondents in both countries said that a leaders’ summit between President Park and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “was not needed.”
Likewise the history and territory issues were a high priority for Koreans to pave the way to a future-oriented relationship, with the issues of the so-called comfort women and territorial dispute coming in at 31.3 and 23.8 percent. For Japanese, 28.9 percent called for mutual cultural understanding.
“The Japanese government needs to show sincerity in regard to the historical issues, but the Korean government has to abandon the idea that just resolving the history issues will resolve everything and needs to ponder a means to expand future exchanges and understanding,” said Yun Duk-min, chancellor of the state-run Korea National Diplomatic Academy.
“There is particularly a need for a delicate approach in regard to how Japan will explain to the post-war generation the issues that happened in the past.”
In regard to positive feelings for each other, 60 percent of Japanese respondents said they liked Korean culture, followed by 17.2 percent of people having acquaintances in Korea.
Some three out of 10 Koreans liked Japan’s national character, 27.7 percent liked its culture and 22.8 percent liked its image as a technological and economic power.
Surprisingly, 36.8 percent of Japanese in their 20s held positive feelings toward Korea and just 6.1 percent held negative feelings. This has been attributed to the effect of K-Pop and Korean culture on Japanese youth.
The two countries were more aligned in regard to policy toward Pyongyang, and 75.3 percent of South Koreans said that dialogue was needed with North Korea, compared to 62.5 percent in 2010. More Japanese respondents also approved of dialogue with the North, with 47.9 percent compared to 37 percent in 2010.
Among South Koreans surveyed, 22.9 percent said sanctions were needed on Pyongyang, down from 30.3 percent five years ago while 38.4 percent of Japanese respondents called for sanctions, down from 49 percent.
Some 58 percent of Koreans pinpointed the United States as the “most important country,” up from 49.5 percent in 2010.
Sixty percent of the Japanese surveyed also chose the United States, down from 68.1 percent in 2010. More Japanese felt China poses a greater threat than before, with 69.4 percent compared to 63 percent in 2010.
BY JEONG JAE-HONG, KIM HYUN-KI and AN HYO-SEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]