Some 71.6 percent of South Koreans see Japan unfavorably, up 21.7 percentage points from the previous year, as diplomatic relations between the Asian neighbors sink to historic lows over wartime labor issues, a survey shows.
South Koreans who have good feelings of Japan fell by 19.4 points to 12.3 percent, near the record-low of 12.2 percent in 2013, according to the poll conducted in September and October by Tokyo-based nonprofit think tank Genron NPO and the Seoul-based East Asia Institute.
The annual survey, which started in 2013, reflects sharply deteriorating sentiment among South Koreans toward Japan. Those who see bilateral relations as extremely poor or poor soared 22.3 points from the previous year to a record-high 88.4 percent, it said.
Tokyo-Seoul ties tumbled following a South Korean top court order in October 2018 for a Japanese company to pay four men for the forced labor they endured during the 1910-1945 period of Japan's colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula.
Japan argues the ruling goes against a 1965 bilateral agreement under which it provided financial aid to South Korea with the understanding the compensation issue was settled "completely and finally."
Among Japanese, views on South Korea have slightly improved from last year, with 46.3 percent saying they have unfavorable feelings, down 3.6 points, and those having good feelings climbing to 25.9 percent from 20 percent, which was the lowest since 2013.
"It is said that 2019 was the worst year for the Japanese and South Korean governments. Their dispute over their views on history also spread to economic and security issues," Yasushi Kudo, head of Genron NPO said in a statement.
Kudo was referring to Japan's apparent retaliation to South Korea's ruling that saw Tokyo tighten export controls of materials used to manufacture semiconductors and display panels and Seoul's threat to terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact that helps the countries respond to missile threats from North Korea.
"While both governments have not been able to show any intent to improve the difficult (situation), moves to boycott Japanese products and trips to Japan escalated among the South Korean public. On top of that, the novel coronavirus pandemic has virtually stopped bilateral exchanges," Kudo said.
The top reason for South Koreans viewing Japan in a negative light, was because "Tokyo is not correctly reflecting on its past history of aggression" to South Korea at 61.3 percent, followed by the existence of a territorial dispute over a pair of islets in the Sea of Japan at 45.0 percent.
On the Japanese side, 55.7 percent said they have a poor view of South Korea because it continues to criticize Tokyo over wartime history, the survey showed.
The survey received responses from 1,000 people aged 18 or above in Japan and 1,006 people aged 19 or above in South Korea.© KYODO