Press Release

More Japanese positive on S. Korea than negative, 1st in decade: poll

  • 2023-10-13
  • The Mainichi (The Mainichi)

Japanese people with a favorable impression of South Korea outnumbered those with an unfavorable one for the first time in a decade, a survey showed Thursday, amid signs the Asian neighbors' ties are improving after they frayed over wartime issues.

According to an annual joint poll by Japanese nonprofit think tank Genron NPO and the Seoul-based East Asia Institute, a record-high 37.4 percent of 1,000 Japanese respondents said their view on South Korea is "good," up from 30.4 percent a year earlier.

Those who answered "bad" accounted for 32.8 percent, down from 40.3 percent. Since the survey began in 2013, the largest share of respondents had a negative view of South Korea until last year.

After Yoon Suk Yeol became South Korean president in May 2022, relations between Tokyo and Seoul have seen rapid improvement, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Yoon having resumed reciprocal visits as the two countries' leaders, a practice that had been halted since 2011.

The rapprochement is demonstrated by Seoul's proposal in March of a solution to the issue of providing compensation to South Koreans over alleged forced labor during World War II, under Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula that lasted from 1910-1945.

Under the administration of Yoon's predecessor Moon Jae In, bilateral relations deteriorated to the lowest point in decades due largely to the long-standing wartime labor dispute.

The poll outcomes, however, showed that 28.9 percent of 1,008 South Korean respondents answered that they have a favorable view of Japan, slightly down from the previous year's 30.6 percent, while 53.3 percent said they have an unfavorable one, worsening from 52.8 percent.

Yasushi Kudo, head of Genron NPO, said at a press conference in Tokyo that South Koreans have yet to be fully convinced by "government-led policies" aimed at mending ties with Japan, while Yoon's efforts seem to have been received positively among Japanese people.

Regarding the release of treated radioactive water from Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea, 68.7 percent of South Koreans are opposed to it, according to the survey.

The figure was higher than the 50.0 percent of Chinese respondents who said they are opposed to the water discharge in another poll conducted by Genron NPO with the China International Communications Group, whose results were released on Tuesday.

The water release began in late August after the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded in July that the plan aligned with global safety standards. Yoon said his administration "respects" the U.N. nuclear watchdog's evaluation, despite high levels of concern among the South Korean public.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 2 to 24 in Japan and from Aug. 25 to Sept. 13 in South Korea, with all the respondents aged 18 or older.