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South Korea’s decision to let the American military deploy a powerful antimissile radar system on its soil in 2017 has been the subject of frequent criticism from China. And last month, a presidential hopeful, Yoon Seok-youl, told the country to stop complaining, unless it wanted to remove its own radar systems near the Korean Peninsula.
Political elites here are usually careful not to antagonize China, the country’s largest trading partner. But Mr. Yoon’s blunt rhetoric reflected a new phenomenon: a growing antipathy toward Beijing among South Koreans, particularly young voters whom conservative politicians are eager to win over.
Anti-Chinese sentiment has grown so much this year that China has replaced Japan — the former colonial ruler — as the country regarded most unfavorably in South Korea, according to a joint survey by the polling company Hankook Research and the Korean newsmagazine SisaIN. In the same survey, South Koreans said they favored the United States over China six to one.