Image: Comparison of the two countries' desire for US-South Korea-Japan trilateral relationship. Credit: EAI.
Since Japan began a trade war in 2019 to disclaim responsibility for its use of slave labor during World War II, Korea-Japan relations have been in a rut. (See previous coverage, “Japan’s Trade War, Two Years Later”.) But the 9th joint annual survey by the East Asian Institute 동아시아연구원 of South Korea and Genron NPO of Japan suggests that bilateral relationship may be on the upswing, with Koreans desiring an improved relationship with Japan.
Compared to 2020, negative opinion of Japan among Koreans waned, from 71.6% to 63.2%. Among Koreans, 74.6% said the bilateral relationship should improve to some degree; 64.2% said the trilateral cooperation among South Korea, Japan and the United States should be strengthened.
The Japanese, on the other hand, remain cool. The proportion of Japanese who held negative opinions of Koreans rose slightly from last year, going from 46.3% to 48.8%. A small majority - 54.8% - of the Japanese said the bilateral relationship should improve, but only 36.0% wanted stronger trilateral relations among Korea-Japan-US.