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Survey: 88% of Japanese, 72% of South Koreans see China as military threat

Members of a Chinese military honor guard. (Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF/Released)
June 12, 2021

In a joint opinion poll conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and the South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo, 88% of Japanese and 72% of South Korean respondents said the increasing military pressure China is putting on its neighbors is a threat to their countries.

Japanese and South Korean respondents expressed a strong sense of caution against China in the survey, which was conducted in Japan and South Korea on May 21-23.

On the U.S. policy of increasing pressure on China over diplomatic, security and human rights issues, 59% of Japanese and 64% of South Koreans said their country should side with the United States.

Meanwhile, 68% of respondents in both countries said Japan-South Korea relations should be improved to counter China and North Korea.

The survey results show that people in both countries feel the need to cooperate with the United States and to improve Japan-South Korea ties.

However, there were differences of opinion regarding economic relations with China. In Japan, 48% of respondents said the current situation should be maintained, 23% said ties should be strengthened, and 22% said they should be lessened. Meanwhile, 42% of South Koreans said ties should be strengthened, 33% said the current situation should be maintained, and 21% said ties should be lessened.

—Japan-S. Korea relations

Regarding Japan-South Korea ties, there have been no signs of improvement, with relations that are said to be the worst they have been since World War II.

In the survey, 81% of respondents in Japan said bilateral relations were “bad,” slightly down from 84% in the previous 2020 survey. Meanwhile, 89% of respondents in South Korea gave the same answer, compared to 91% in the 2020 survey. The figure has exceeded 80% in both countries for three consecutive years.

There was not much change regarding trust and friendship between the two nations, reflecting the stagnation in Japan-South Korea ties.

In Japan, 69% of respondents said they could not trust South Korea, unchanged from the 2020 survey, while 80% in South Korea said they could not trust Japan, down from 83% in 2020.

Meanwhile, 57% of respondents in Japan said they did not have a favorable impression of South Korea, down from 58%. The figure was 76% in South Korea, down from 77%, indicating little has changed since the last survey.

However, positive responses stood out among younger respondents. More than 50% of respondents aged 18-29 in Japan said they could trust South Korea, and more than 60% said they have a favorable impression. In South Korea, the percentages for both exceeded 30% each, lower than half but higher than other age groups.

The issue of lawsuits involving former comfort women and requisitioned workers during World War II is yet to be resolved.

In a question on whether they think their countries should compromise on the historical issues, 30% of Japanese respondents said yes, and 59% said no. In South Korea, 18% of respondents said yes and 79% said no. More than half of the respondents in both countries had a negative view.

The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Hankook Ilbo surveyed respondents aged 18 and older. The survey was conducted using random digit dialing to landlines and mobile phones, with 1,063 valid responses received in Japan and 1,000 in South Korea.


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