The bitter dispute that has developed between Beijing and Seoul over the deployment of the US-backed THAAD missile defense system has caused China to become even more hated in South Korea than Japan, its former colonizer.
According to an opinion poll conducted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, China’s approval rating on a 0-10 scale in South Korea has dropped from 4.31 in January to 3.21 in March.
That drops China just behind Japan which had a 3.33 rating in March. Apart from North Korea, Japan has traditionally been rated as South Koreans’ least favorite country thanks to the scars left over from its wartime past, including using 200,000 Koreans as “comfort women” — sexual slaves for Japanese troops.
In comparison, the United States holds a 5.71 rating, while North Korea is down at 2.17. Both these ratings have remained mostly stable over the last year.
China’s favorability rating fell the most among South Koreans over 60 years old, dropping from 4.38 in January to 2.72 in March. Meanwhile South Koreans in their twenties were already distrustful of China before the THAAD situation began to escalate further with a 3.84 favorabiilty rating in January dropping to a 3.46 rating in March.
Chinese President Xi Jinping saw his own favorability rating among South Koreans plummet all the way to 3.01 — but that still puts him ahead of Donald Trump (2.93) and Shinzo Abe (1.56).
On Weibo, Chinese netizens don’t seem all that bothered by the survey. “Who the fuck cares,” reads one comment with nearly 100,000 likes. “We don’t need you to like us. Thanks. We don’t like you either,” writes another Weibo user. “That’s okay. You’ve always been our least favorite province,” commented another.
Facing a nuclear-obsessed neighbor, Seoul sees the US missile defense system as necessary for its survival. At the same time, Beijing views it as a threat to its own national security and has vowed to take appropriate “countermeasures,” raising nationalist sentiment against South Korea.
Spurred on by state media editorials, the South Korean Lotte Group has become a primary target for Chinese “patriots” with dancing aunties protesting in front of Lotte supermarkets in China, and primary school kids being indoctrinated against their foodstuffs. This month 80% of Lotte’s supermarkets have been forced to shut down in China, resulting in heavy losses for the company.
The dispute has also hit the South Korean tourism industry hard with numerous flights and cruises from mainland China being canceled. In one sensational incident earlier this month 3,400 Chinese tourists refused to set foot on South Korean soil after their cruise ship docked at the popular resort island of Jeju.
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