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Politics

Abe's handling of wartime labor cases draws 64% support in Japan

Public endorses bringing in a third country for settlement, poll shows

The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saw its approval rating slip to 51% in the latest Nikkei survey. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO -- Most Japanese favor the government's stance toward the wartime labor issues with South Korea, the latest Nikkei/TV Tokyo survey finds.

Asked for their views on tapping international arbitration over the row with Seoul, after South Korean courts ordered Japanese companies to compensate Koreans forced to work for them during World War II, 64% of respondents said they supported it and 23% opposed it in the poll taken from Friday to Sunday. 

South Korea's Supreme Court upheld this past October compensation for former South Korean laborers made to work for a predecessor of Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal during the war. Tokyo considers all issues of compensation related to World War II to have been resolved by a 1965 bilateral agreement.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called the verdict "impossible in light of international law.”

To settle the issue, Tokyo is seeking to establish a three-member arbitration panel, comprising Japan, South Korea and a third country. The 1965 agreement regarding property and claims stipulates that an arbitration committee will be formed if Japan and South Korea cannot resolve such issues through diplomacy. 

The poll found that 69% of men and 58% of women supported the government's stance. A majority of every age group favored it as well.

The Abe cabinet's approval rating came to 51%, down slightly from 53% in late January. Those disapproving of the cabinet rose to 42% from 37%.

Asked what policies they want the prime minister to pursue, 47% -- the largest number -- said the strengthening of social security, followed by an economic recovery at 40%. Multiple responses were allowed for this question.

On the current economic expansion, which the government says may be the longest postwar growth, 78% of respondents said they do not feel it and 16% said they do.

The poll was carried out by Nikkei Research via random-digit dialing, receiving 988 responses from those 18 and older, for a response rate of 45.8%.

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