As Japan-South Korea relations cool, antagonism limits diplomatic options

The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

Due to differences in views over issues related to historical perceptions and words or deeds of political leaders of both countries, a structure of mutual distrust between Japan and South Korea is taking hold. As a joint public opinion survey conducted recently by The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Hankook Ilbo shows, this is a critical situation for both sides. The survey found that 73 percent of Japanese think South Korea is not trustworthy, tying a previous survey result posted last year and marking a record high for two years in a row. In South Korea, 85 percent of pollees said Japan is not trustworthy. In the bilateral surveys taken from the 1990s up to 2011, particularly conspicuous was distrust of Japan among South Koreans. In recent years, however, Japanese have been viewing South Korea with an increasingly critical eye. Relations between the two countries are in a new phase. The major turning point in bilateral relations probably came in 2012, when then South Korean President Lee Myung Bak made an unprecedented visit to the Takeshima islands and demanded an ��apology by the Emperor.�� Lee has neither withdrawn his demand nor apologized to Japan since then. The Hanryu boom for Korean popular culture that once swept across Japan created a sense of affinity here, but that has now faded, replaced by a negative backlash. Current South Korean President Park Geun-hye has called on Japan to present solutions to the issue of so-called comfort women as a precondition for holding a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. South Korea’s unilateral call for concessions from Japan is fueling anti-Korean sentiment among Japanese. Extremely wide gaps between the two countries over issues related to historical perceptions cast a dark shadow over diplomatic relations.