Roughly two in three Japanese remain interested in the territorial dispute over a pair of South Korea-controlled, Japan-claimed islets in the Sea of Japan, little changed from 2019, a recent government survey showed.
The remote islets, called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean, drew interest from 63.6 percent in the survey conducted between November and December of last year, compared with 63.7 percent in the previous survey conducted between September and October of 2019.
The latest poll found older people were more likely to pay attention to the rocky islets, whose ownership has been a major source of contention between the two countries, alongside issues stemming from Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
People in their 70s or older who expressed interest in the subject reached 74.8 percent, followed by those in their 60s at 70.5 percent, 50s at 62.9 percent, 40s at 57.1 percent and 30s at 51.7 percent. Respondents between 18 and 29 had the lowest level of interest at 38.2 percent.
South Korea has stationed security personnel on the islands since 1954 and has taken effective control of them. Japan has described the islets as an "integral part" of its territory in light of historical facts and based on international law and designated them as part of Shimane Prefecture.
Although Tokyo has sought to raise awareness among the public about Japan's territorial sovereignty of the islands, a Cabinet Secretariat official in charge of the survey stressed the need for more efforts targeted at the younger generation.
Meanwhile, 32 percent of respondents said they are not interested in the issue to varying degrees, with a majority of them citing a lack of opportunity to learn or think about it as one of the reasons for their inclination.
Many also cited the perceived remoteness of the issue from their everyday lives.
The sense that the territorial dispute evokes "negative" ideas, such as conflict and armed confrontation, was among other reasons given in the multiple-choice question, as well as the feeling that the issue is difficult to understand.
The latest survey, conducted through the mail due to the coronavirus pandemic and made public on Feb. 10, reached out to 3,000 people aged 18 or older across the country, of whom 1,765, or 58.8 percent, provided valid responses.
Takeshima has a total area of 0.2 square kilometers and lies northwest of Shimane proper. The islets consist of volcanic rock with little vegetation or drinking water but are located in rich fishing grounds.
Bilateral relations sank to their lowest level in decades under former South Korean President Moon Jae In due to controversies linked to Japan's colonial past, including "comfort women" procured for Japanese wartime military brothels.
However, there are signs of a thaw in the ties since South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol took office in May last year amid rising tensions on the peninsula following North Korea's repeated ballistic missile tests.