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Heads of SNU, Tokyo University decry history distortion

Posted March. 28, 2001 17:55,   


Seoul National University (SNU) president Lee Ki-Jun joined University of Tokyo president Shigehiko Hasumi on Wednesday in criticizing current moves in Japan to distort its recent history. Hasumi called on contemporary Japanese to take responsibility for past wrongs even if they didn`t commit or witness them. Acknowledging a dark past which could hardly be justified under any circumstances, such as the deprivation of freedom and human rights of Koreans for 36 years under the colonial rule of Japan, he denounced those Japanese trying to distort the historical facts.

``I am convinced that attempts to erase the bad memories concerning Korea, which is one of the good neighbors of Japan, by way of justifying the misdeeds of Japan, might give us a small measure of self-contentment but it shows a lack of courage to face the future,`` the Japanese educator said before the graduating class at his university this year.

SNU President Lee told the commencement, held at the university`s International Forum Auditorium, that a trustful and genuine understanding would come when Korea and Japan are determined to overcome the past upon sober soul-searching over their unhappy years of old. He pointed out the modern history of interaction between Korea and Japan evidenced that unwillingness to understand and respect other peoples and neighbors could do much harm to all countries.

The two educators shared their critical attitude toward recent moves of some Japanese authors of history textbooks to play down Japan`s colonialism and wartime atrocities in East Asia. Lee was the first Korean to be invited to address a graduation ceremony at Japan`s top public university, which has produced the cream of Japanese leaders.

Lee called for profound self-reflection by the Japanese on history, which he termed forgettable but not erasable, before seeking coexistence and cooperation based on impartial mutual understanding and reciprocal consideration to put the unfortunate past of the two nations behind.

Lee In-Chul inchul@donga.com