Challenges and Opportunities for Korea-Japan Relations in 2014

Executive Summary

This report offers an in-depth look at attitudes of the South Korean public on Japan. It uses public opinion data collected by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies via its public opinion surveys. Its core findings are outlined below.

  • Following Prime Minister Abe’s Yasukuni visit, his favorability rating declined to 1.0 on a 0-10 scale. This is the same favorability rating found for Kim Jong-Un. The favorability rating of Japan declined to 2.4 following the visit. This was a 0.2 point decline from early December.
  • A near majority (49.5%) of the Korean public remained supportive of a Korea-Japan summit, and a similar number (50.7%) stated support for the signing of GSOMIA. The public also remains supportive of President Park taking a proactive role in improving relations (57.8%).
  • The continuing support for improving Korea-Japan relations stems from China’s rising influence in the region. If China continues its rise, a clear majority (63.9%) stated that security cooperation with Japan would be a necessity. A disproportionate number of those who support an improvement between two countries are more wary of the rise of China.
  • Dokdo is still cited as the biggest obstacle to improving Korea-Japan relations. This was also true among those respondents with the most favorable attitudes towards Japan, with 49.5% of this group stating as such. The result implies that Koreans will react strongly to any participation by Abe’s government in the upcoming events marking Japan’s Takeshima Day on February 22.
  • The data also suggests that perceived U.S. support for Japan could harm Korean perceptions of the United States. Following U.S. support for Japan’s eventual expansion of its collective self defense, an increased number of Koreans saw the Korea-U.S. relationship as competitive.


About Experts

Kim Jiyoon
Kim Jiyoon

Research Division

Dr. KIM Jiyoon is a senior fellow in the Public Opinion Studies Program at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Previously, Dr. Kim was a postdoctoral research fellow at Université de Montréal. Her research interests include elections and voting behavior, American politics, and political methodology. Her recent publications include “Political judgment, perceptions of facts, and partisan effects” (Electoral Studies, 2010), “Public spending, public deficits, and government coalition” (Political Studies, 2010), and “The Party System in Korea and Identity Politics” (in Larry Diamond and Shin Giwook Eds., New Challenges for Maturing Democracies in Korea and Taiwan, Stanford University Press, 2014). She received her B.A. from Yonsei University, M.P.P. in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Karl Friedhoff
Karl Friedhoff

Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Karl Friedhoff is a fellow in public opinion and Asia policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He was previously a Korea Foundation-Mansfield Foundation US-Korea Nexus Scholar and a member of the Mansfield Foundation’s Trilateral Working Group. Friedhoff was previously based in Seoul where he was a program officer in the Public Opinion Studies Program at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among others, and he has been a frequent guest on both TV and radio to discuss US foreign policy in Asia, South Korea’s politics, and international relations in East Asia. Friedhoff earned his BA in political science at Wittenberg University and an MA in international commerce at Seoul National University.

Kang Chungku
Kang Chungku

Public Opinion Studies Team

Mr. Kang Chungku is a principal research associate working on public opinion surveys and data analysis at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Mr. Kang has led the Asan Institute’s Annual Survey series, “South Koreans and Their Neighbors,” for the past decade and he also undertakes regular surveys into key foreign policy issues facing South Korea. He also supports the Institute’s researchers with quantitative data analysis. Prior to joining the Asan Institute, he was a research assistant at the Korea Dialogue Academy in Seoul. His research interests include quantitative research methods, survey design, and statistical data analysis. Mr. Kang received his B.A. in English and M.A. in Sociology at Korea University.

Lee Euicheol
Lee Euicheol

Center for Public Opinion and Quantitative Research

Lee Euicheol is a program officer in the Public Opinion Studies Center at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. His main responsibilities are practicing and analyzing ‘Asan Daily Poll’ and ‘Asan Annual Survey’. His research interests include opinion polls, Korean politics, and elections. He received his B.A. in Business Administration from Yonsei University.