More Japanese Feel Need to Say Sorry to 'Comfort Women'

Japanese who believe that Tokyo should apologize for drafting thousands of Asian woman as sex slaves for the Imperial Army in World War II outnumber those who think otherwise for the first time, a straw poll suggests.

The Northeast Asian History foundation commissioned Gallup Korea to poll 527 Seoul citizens, and 500 citizens each in Beijing and Tokyo from Aug. 1 to 9. In the poll released Monday, 48.9 percent of respondents in Tokyo said Japan should apologize to the "comfort women," while 30.3 percent said it does not need to. 

Some 53.6 percent of Japanese women and 57.8 percent of Japanese respondents in their 30s and 40s said Japan should apologize. Men made up 38.1 percent of those who thought Japan need not apologize, and older people 34.5 percent.

When the survey began in 2007, only 38.4 percent of Japanese said Tokyo should say sorry, with 50.4 percent against.

The poll was held right before the general election, which marked a historic shift from the rightwing Liberal Democrats to the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, some 60.3 percent of South Koreans said relations with China will improve, up from 52.3 percent in 2008. But among Chinese and Japanese the trend was the opposite, from 74.2 percent to 61 percent and from 31.6 percent to 23.3 percent respectively.

Some 44 percent of South Korean and Japanese respondents expected better ties between Seoul and Tokyo. But only 30.1 percent of Chinese respondents saw Korea-Japan ties improve.

Asked about the most urgent historical disagreements to be solved in the three countries, 23.6 percent of South Koreans cited Japan's claim to the Dokdo islets, 12.3 percent of the Chinese picked territorial issues, and 11.2 percent of the Japanese cited the need to foster a proper historical understanding.

The poll had a large margin of error of 4.4 percent and a 95-percent confidence level.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 20, 2009 12:39 KST