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Ill feeling toward S. Korea reflects irritation with rehashing history issues

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Japanese public has never been more severe than now in viewing South Korea because of the two nations’ conflict over issues of history and other matters. The administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in must take this seriously.

According to a joint opinion survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Hankook Ilbo, the percentage of Japanese answering South Korea cannot be trusted has reached an all-time high. The figure, which stood at 60 percent last year, has risen to 74 percent.

The Moon administration unilaterally decided to disband a foundation established to support former so-called comfort women under the Japan-South Korea accord of 2015. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed in Japan said the action is unacceptable.

The South Korean Supreme Court ordered a Japanese corporation to pay compensation to former wartime requisitioned workers. The Japanese government urged the Moon administration to deal with the issue, saying the court decision runs counter to the 1965 Japan-South Korea agreement on the settlement of problems concerning property and claims and on economic cooperation. However, his government has not tried to take any remedial measures.

Another point at issue is the problem resulting from an incident in which the South Korean Navy directed fire-control radar at a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force plane. South Korea continued to change the subject and it did not acknowledge the facts involved.

If a country does not honor promises between nations and behaves in a manner contrary to the common sense of the international community, that country will inevitably compromise the trust it has.

Asked whether Japan should further apologize over the issue of former comfort women, 80 percent of those polled in Japan said doing so is “unnecessary.” In South Korea, the figure for those citing “necessary” stood at 87 percent.

Younger people can help

Such was also the case with the Japanese government’s assertion over the issue of former requisitioned workers. About 80 percent of the Japanese respondents said the assertion is “acceptable.” This was in stark contrast to the figure for the South Korean respondents, with about 80 percent of them citing “unacceptable.”

Japan and South Korea need to deepen their cooperation in responding to North Korean threats and promoting regional stability. However, South Korea has persisted in bringing up history issues again and has continued to denounce Japan. The Japanese public is feeling a pent-up irritation. The results of the latest survey appear to reflect this.

In South Korea, 75 percent of the respondents said they cannot trust Japan. The figure in this respect has constantly exceeded 70 percent, starting in the 1990s. One of the factors behind this seems to be the strongly anti-Japan education in South Korea.

The South Korean media should be held greatly responsible for this, as it belittles postwar Japan’s pursuit of pacifism and its international contributions, emphasizing the danger of Japan growing into a “military power.”

More than 80 percent of both Japanese and South Korean respondents said their nations’ relationship is unfavorable. This situation can only be described as serious.

Some cause for bright prospects can be seen in the answers given by younger respondents aged 29 or under, regarding whether they have friendly feelings toward each other’s country. Figures for both Japanese and South Korean respondents reached the 40 percent range, pointing to higher levels than those for other generations. There has been a growing interest among young Japanese people in K-pop and other forms of South Korean culture.

There has been a continued succession of active visits to each other’s nation. Last year, a total of more than 10 million people made such visits. This trend is marked by a noticeable increase in sightseers from South Korea. It is hoped that the growing diversity in and depth of bilateral exchanges will play a role in cushioning the discord between the two countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 12, 2019)Speech



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