A joint public opinion poll to gauge sentiment in Japan toward South Korea, and vice versa, found that Japanese respondents had a more favorable impression of their near neighbor than at any time in the recent past.
The survey, carried out from August to September by the Japanese nonprofit organization Genron NPO and the South Korean think tank East Asia Research Institute, generated responses from roughly 1,000 Japanese and 1,000 Koreans aged 18 and older. The results were released Oct. 12.
On the Japanese side, 37.4 percent of respondents had a “good” impression of South Korea, the highest figure since the joint surveys started in 2013. The number of respondents whose impression was “good” for the first time exceeded those whose impression was “not good.”
The most common reason cited by Japanese respondents was “interest in pop culture,” at 47.1 percent followed by an “attractive food and shopping culture” at 34.2 percent.
On the other hand, 53.3 percent of respondents on the Korean side did not have a good impression of Japan, a slight increase from last year. Those who responded “good” totaled 28.9 percent, down slightly from last year.
At the political level, Japan-Korea relations have marked a rapid upward trajectory since a settlement was reached on the long-standing issue of wartime forced labor that had taken bilateral relations to breaking point.
Only 8.5 percent of South Koreans had a favorable impression of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, while 36.1 percent ticked “bad.”
Regarding perceptions of shared history over Japan’s 1910-45 annexation of the Korean Peninsula, 27.0 percent of the South Korean respondents said issues emanating from this historical period cannot be resolved regardless of the state of cooperation between the two countries. This marked a significant increase from 15.2 percent last year.
“Although government-led efforts have made progress in improving relations, the viewpoint of the Korean people has not improved to the same degree as that of the Japanese,” Genron chief Yasushi Kudo told an Oct. 12 news conference.
The survey also found that 68.7 percent of the South Korean respondents were “against” the release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. began releasing tons of water into the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 24.
Although South Korean President Yun Suk-yeol has not explicitly expressed opposition to the undertaking, there is growing political and civic opposition in his country to the water release program despite assurances by Japan that it is safe and an assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that it will have a negligible effect on people and the environment.