Seoul-Tokyo deal widely supported in Japan: Poll

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Seoul-Tokyo deal widely supported in Japan: Poll

Nearly half the Japanese public supports the agreement made between Seoul and Tokyo last month that effectively resolved the issues surrounding the Imperial Japanese Army’s sexual enslavement of thousands of young women and girls during World War II, a recent survey showed.

It was a generally more positive response than the one exhibited in Korea.

In a nationwide survey conducted by Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun between Friday and Sunday, 49 percent of respondents said they view the agreement positively.

By contrast, 36 percent said they did not regard the agreement.

The breakthrough deal struck at the end of December, formulated by Seoul and Tokyo’s foreign ministers, promised an apology from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as the establishment of a multimillion-dollar fund for Korea’s victims, who are euphemistically known as “comfort women.”

The issue has long served as a diplomatic and historical dispute between both countries.

The poll showed that half of respondents believed bilateral relations would “improve” in the future, while 38 percent did not.

By comparison, in a separate Yomiuri survey conducted last November following the first bilateral summit between Abe and President Park Geun-hye, 40 percent believed Seoul-Tokyo relations would improve, while 47 percent disagreed.

The newspaper also pointed out that within Korea, discontent regarding the agreement was more expansive, while in Japan there was a “positive expectation for negotiations on long-term pending issues.”

Support for Abe increased to 54 percent in the most recent Yomiuri poll, compared to 49 percent in December, which the newspaper attributed to the deal as well as the prime minister’s response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test.

At the same time, support of his Cabinet decreased by 3 percent from last month to 36 percent.

The poll also showed that 76 percent of respondents thought Japan should impose stronger sanctions on Pyongyang in response to its announcement Wednesday that it had carried out a fourth nuclear, compared to 14 percent who said there was “no need.”

On the home front, a New Year’s survey by the JoongAng Ilbo conducted at the end of 2015 following the agreement showed that 53.7 percent of Korean respondents were not content with the comfort women deal, compared to 35.6 percent who were satisfied.

The victims, civic organizations and scholars have criticized the agreement for neglecting to highlight Japan’s legal responsibility for its wartime crimes against the women.

Last year, nine former comfort women passed away, and only 46 remain. The survivors have conveyed their personal disappointment over the government negotiations - particularly that the agreement did not reflect their voices - and pointed out Monday that they had yet to hear a direct apology from Japan.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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