Japanese and Korean are very similar from a grammatical point of view and it is even possible to translate word for word without losing too much meaning.

With respect to pronunciation, Japanese seems easier (because there are fewer sounds). But on the other hand you can master the Korean writing system in more or less than one week and read it without much trouble (I mean read only and I do not imply understanding of what is being read). While you can certainly "survive" in Japan to a certain extent with hiragana/katakana only, it will quickly become insufficient.

If you were to learn Korean after learning Japanese you can rely a lot on the hanja words in order to broaden your vocabulary quickly, but the converse is not true. Indeed a Korean student of the Japanese language would have to learn a great deal of kanji.

Which leads me to the question in the title.

Are there any studies on Korean and Japanese native speakers learning their counterpart language which conclude that Japanese natives are better (i.e. they pick it up faster) than their Korean counterparts or the reverse?

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    This is a good question. There has been a lot of research in this area. I even participated in a study where the languages considered were Spanish and Portuguese. – callyalater Apr 8 '16 at 18:05
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    Do you want to compare the time it takes to learn to have conversations in the respective target languages or the time it takes to acquire all aspects (not just listening and speaking but also reading and writing)? – Tsundoku Aug 24 '16 at 18:52
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    @ChristopheStrobbe My question targets all aspect because I think that to some extent some skills might be easier/more difficult to acquire depending on the native language (here, Japanese and Korean) – 永劫回帰 Aug 24 '16 at 19:03
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    Have you been able to find anything about this? I looked for studies but couldn't find any. They may exist in Japanese and Korean, but I can't read those. – Tsundoku Jun 20 '17 at 17:52
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    @ChristopheStrobbe No still nothing. I can only read Japanese and a lot of articles suggest that Korean language is an easy language for Japanese. The same is true for Korean, Japanese is an easy language. But I could not find a study comparing the progress of Japanese learners of Korean and Korean learners of Japanese. – 永劫回帰 Jun 21 '17 at 22:56

It is easier for Japanese to learn Korean. We can deduce this ourselves without resorting to (unfortunately-nonexistent-in-English) academic studies.

The deciding factor is the writing system. You said yourself, correctly, that learning the Japanese writing system is far more intense than learning the Korean one. When you take into account the similar grammar, roughly similar pronunciation, and even some overlapping vocabulary, then the biggest remaining issue is reading/writing. The Japanese system, while utterly beautiful, will take orders of magnitude more time to master. Thus, a native Japanese has an easier time learning Korean as opposed to the other way around.

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    First, I would like to thank you for your answer. I quite agree with the points you mention except for roughly similar pronunciation. Indeed, Japanese has a very restricted set of sounds whereas Korean has a superset of Japanese sounds making it easier to Korean people with that respect. – 永劫回帰 Jun 6 '18 at 21:01

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