Japanese view of South Korea falls to record low

Descendants of Koreans who were conscripted to the Japanese imperial army or recruited for forced labour under Japan's colonisation at an anti-Japan rally in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul on June 22, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - The proportion of Japanese with a positive view of neighbouring South Korea fell to a record low of 20 per cent, an annual poll showed, amid anger over a series of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation in colonial-era forced labour cases.

More than 60 per cent of those polled in both nations saw the state of the bilateral relationship as "bad." Nevertheless, the proportion of South Korean respondents with a positive view of Japan climbed to 31.7 per cent, the highest since think tanks in the two countries began conducting their annual poll in 2013. The latest results were released Wednesday.

Relations between the neighbours have plunged in the past year due to conflict over Japan's 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean Peninsula, with the most prominent recent flash point being compensation cases for Koreans conscripted to work for Japan's imperial war machine.

The friction has undermined cooperation between the two US allies amid missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.

Japan says all claims relating to the colonial period were settled under a 1965 treaty that normalised ties. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said the treaty doesn't prevent Koreans from suing Japanese firms and the decisions of the courts should be respected.

The face-to-face interview survey, conducted by Genron NPO in Japan and the East Asia Institute in South Korea, found the Japanese were increasingly likely to say that ties with South Korea weren't important, while more than 80 per cent of South Koreans said they saw Japan as an important partner.

Both sides had negative views of the other's leader - Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have each scored political points at home by taking a tough stand against their neighbour.

About 80 per cent of South Koreans had a bad or very bad impression of Abe, up slightly on the previous year, the survey said. The proportion of Japanese with a negative view of Moon doubled from last year to more than 50 per cent.

One reason for the less negative impression of Japan among South Koreans may be direct experience. The survey found that 42 per cent of South Koreans had visited Japan, while only 22.5 per cent of Japanese had visited South Korea.

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