Yoon’s visit to the White House is being met with headwinds in domestic public opinion.

As he seeks deeper connections with the United States and Japan, the South Korean president has suffered in the polls, but there are prospects for a significant diplomatic breakthrough.

Although Seoul’s desire for deeper connections has resulted in a loss in public support for Japan and the US, the unpopular Yoon has no practical alternative policy due to security considerations. 

Yoon’s reputation has gotten worse as he tries to change Seoul’s foreign policy, but  Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister, has benefited politically by turning around a nearly year-long decline in his popularity.

The meeting between South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and President Joe Biden on Wednesday is a key chance for Seoul to improve relations with both Washington and Tokyo, but according to Morning Consult surveys, there are significant difficulties due to public opinion in South Korea.

Yoon, who frequently scores among the least famous leaders in Morning Consult’s tracking, is receiving harsh criticism at home for his efforts to make peace with Japan despite severe historical grievances. The threats posed by North Korea and China are too tremendous for South Korea to handle alone, but Yoon has so far gritted his teeth and continued.

To avoid becoming an outcast in East Asia, Yoon has undertaken a clever and brave policy change, according to Ken Moriyasu of Nikkei Asia.

The profitable news is that Yoon and Biden are in an excellent position to reach deals that could significantly strengthen their alliance and ensure regional stability in East Asia. 

The nasty news for Yoon is that Morning Consult polls indicate South Koreans are so opposed to his change in foreign policy that it may harm public opinion of the nation’s most crucial partners.

Japan and the US are less popular in South Korea as Yoon pushes for deeper ties.

Views of the United States and Japan in South Korea drastically deteriorated between December—before Yoon’s charm effort to Tokyo and Washington—and April. In a survey of South Korean adults, Japan’s net favorability—the proportion of respondents who had favorable opinions minus the proportion who had unfavorable opinions—dropped 12 points to minus 43, while the United States’ net favorability declined 16 points to plus 29. 

Not everyone feels the same way. In contrast, opinions of the United States remained firmly favorable. Over that time, South Korea’s net favorability among Japanese adults rose 13 points (albeit it still remains negative at minus 26). Although attitudes towards Japan are far more favorable, Americans’ opinions of both allies remained stable.

The historical agreement made in March between Seoul and Tokyo to recompense South Koreans who were compelled to work for Japan during World War II can be partly blamed for the different trends. 

Japanese businesses would not be forced to contribute under the proposed scheme, which called for South Korea to generate domestic cash to compensate the victims. Biden referred to the agreement as “a breaking new chapter of cooperation” between the two nations, while South Korea has voiced strong opposition to the arrangement because of worries that Japan will escape accountability for its abuses. 

South Koreans’ opinions of the three countries’ mutual competitors could hardly be worse, notwithstanding declining support for the United States and Japan 

Interesting opportunities emerge now that the strategic deadlock over China has mostly been resolved. As per Sheryn Lee, a senior lecturer at the Swedish Defence University who specializes in Indo-Pacific defense strategy, Yoon has been indicating he is coming to town prepared to make a significant deal on another big conflict: Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

According to Lee, Yoon set a low bar when he said last week that South Korea might begin sending weapons to Ukraine if Russia commits “any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre, or serious violation of the laws of war.” Yoon said last week that South Korea might begin sending weapons to Ukraine if Russia commits “any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre, or serious violation of the laws of war.”

In the event that Beijing bans American chipmaker Micron Technology Inc,  The Biden government also wants Seoul to enable South Korean chipmakers not to ship their goods to China.

Yoon’s domestic standing is already being harmed by perceptions of an excessively submissive foreign strategy, and Lee predicted that he will expect things from Biden in exchange. Yoon can request from Biden increased intelligence collaboration as well as South Korea’s involvement in American-led international initiatives like the AUKUS and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

Of course, Tokyo would need to agree to the majority of those concessions. According to Moriyasu, Japan has always been reluctant to include South Korea in high-level multilateral agreements like the Quad for its own interests.

Japan fought for the longest time to find a method to keep South Korea out of the G-7, for instance, because Japan is the only Asian country represented there,” he said.

The chance of diplomatic breakthroughs in between the two nations, though, may suddenly be increasing. Even though Yoon’s support is still declining, Fumio Kishida, Japanese Prime Minister has seen a much-needed improvement in his approval rating as a result of Japan’s revived relations with South Korea.

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