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Japanese gov`t must take action on textbook issue

Posted February. 28, 2001 20:11,   


Korea and China have raised governmental-level concerns over Japanese moves to publish a new textbook containing distortions of historical fact. In an address honoring the Samil Independence Movement on March 1, President Kim Dae-Jung is expected to underscore the ``righteous consciousness of history.`` On Feb. 28, a meeting was held to work out countermeasures against the Japanese move with Prime Minister Lee Han-Dong and Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Lee Joung-Binn attending. In a meeting with former Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone on Tuesday, Chinese President Jiang Zemin raised the issue when he warned that Japan should refrain from damaging friendly Beijing-Tokyo relations.

Here in Korea, a series of civil protest rallies and demonstrations were held. In Seoul, some 20 social groups, including the National Liberation Association, held mass rallies in front of the Japanese Embassy and at Tapkol Park to protest Japan`s distortion of its misdeeds during the Japanese colonial period. In Tokyo, a group of intellectuals including Haruki Wada, professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, said the textbook in question would not only aggravate Japan`s relations with Korea and China but also run counter to the Japanese government`s 1995 formal apology for its colonial rule.

Before the latest session of the Diet, the Japanese Foreign Ministry made its position clear that criticism from Korea and China of the textbook issue did not constitute interference with Japan`s domestic affairs. While many of the people who suffered under Japan`s oppression during the colonial period must continue to live with the deep scars inflicted by the Japanese imperialists, the Tokyo government is poised to publish a textbook that glorifies the past. Adding insult to injury, some of its politicians have seen fit to utter baseless remarks justifying Japan`s past actions. These maneuvers have provoked anger and protest from the countries that were victimized by Japan`s aggression. Since the Japanese distortion of modern history is especially hurtful to its closest neighbors, Korea and China, it is quite natural for the two countries to lodge intensive protests.

The Tokyo government is seemingly trying defuse the situation by saying that the government`s role in the matter is limited. However, it is up to the Education-Science Ministry to decide whether to authorize the publication of the controversial textbook. And because the Japanese government is ultimately responsible for addressing any potential diplomatic issues over the textbook question, the government is urged to address the outbreak of such ``unnecessary diplomatic frictions.`` In this context, Prof. Wada and other intellectuals accentuated the Tokyo government`s responsibility and urged the Japanese cabinet and education-science authorities to resolve the issue.

Defenders of the new textbook argue that the existing history books are ``masochistic.`` But Japan should face the reality that the distorted history book itself is a product of masochism. Now is the time for the Japanese government to assure that the distorted history textbook never finds a place on Japanese school shelves.