The Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank in Seoul, released a troubling new poll this week that found serious levels of agitation and distrust for Japan among South Koreans. The poll asked one thousand South Korean adults if they felt “militarily threatened” by Japan, and 62 percent said yes. The political relationship between the two countries remains at its lowest point in years.
“Japan got only 2.66 on a 10-point scale of favorableness,” reports the Japan Times, “slightly higher than the 2.43 points given to North Korea.” As in years past, many South Koreans distrust and dislike Japan as a result of territorial disputes and historical issues—like the occasional denouncement of the plight of “comfort women” by a Japanese official, or the frequent visits by some politicians to a shrine in Tokyo where mass murderers of South Koreans (among others) are interred. But the sentiment is growing, and South Korea is not alone.
Japan’s push to rearm and revitalize its military is making its neighbors nervous. The lack of communication between Japanese, South Korean, and Chinese political and military officials adds to those worries. About 58 percent of respondents to the Asan poll, for example, said that Japanese and South Korean leaders need to hold a summit, and over 60 percent support a military cooperation agreement.
These do not appear to be close at hand. In the meantime, Japan and all of its neighbors are beefing up armies and navies with new surveillance vessels, bigger missiles, and powerful new warships and submarines, and threatening each other with serious consequences if any red lines are crossed.
[Members of a nationalist group march on the street at Korean Town in Tokyo during a demonstration denouncing South Korean people living in Japan on June 16, 2013. Photo courtesy of Getty Images]