SEOUL (AFP) - With Seoul-Tokyo relations at their lowest ebb for years, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is as unpopular with South Koreans as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a new survey said on Wednesday.
Following Mr Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine in December, his already low favorability rating in South Korea declined to 1.0 on a 10-point scale, according to the poll carried out by the Asan Institute think-tank in Seoul said.
"This is the same favourability rating found for Kim Jong Un," the institute said.
Nevertheless, half of the Korean public said they supported the idea of a South Korea-Japan summit and nearly 60 per cent wanted President Park Geun Hye to take a proactive role in improving ties.
Ms Park has ruled out a summit with Mr Abe until Tokyo demonstrates sincere repentance for "past wrongdoings." But she has held out the prospect of an eventual summit with Kim Jong Un, despite the fact that North and South Korea remain technically at war.
Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula remains a hugely emotive issue in South Korea, which feels successive Japanese governments have failed to apologise properly or atone for abuses committed during the period.
Japanese politicians express exasperation at the repeated requests for contrition, pointing to numerous apologies and a 1965 agreement that normalised relations and included a large payment to Seoul.
Mr Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine, which commemorates around 2.5 million Japanese war dead including several high-level war criminals, was condemned by South Korea and China.
The Asan survey showed half of South Koreans identify an ongoing territorial dispute with Tokyo over a tiny set of islets as the main obstacle to improved relations.
The Dokdo islands - known as Takeshima in Japan - are controlled by South Korea, which sees Japan's rival claim as an example of its refusal to shed its imperialist past.