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Japan has no claim to world leadership

Posted April. 03, 2001 10:44,   


The Seoul government has expressed its deep regret over the outcome of the Japanese government`s screening of junior high school history textbooks, strongly urging it to take fundamental measures to remove the distortions of history that they contain. It pointed out that some of the textbooks still included contents justifying Japan`s past wrongdoings based upon a self-centered interpretation of history. The statement summed up grave concerns over the distorted view of history that such textbooks are likely to instill in Japan`s young generations. This is not only undesirable for its future but also highly detrimental to Korea-Japan relations.

Some revisions have been made in these authorized textbooks in response to protests from Korea and China. Yet they are not entirely free of whitewashing. For example, references to ``comfort women`` are missing from five of the eight textbooks. The Tokyo government seems to have gone along with ultra-rightists to create new history textbooks that represent the abandonment of what it sees as a self-tormenting historical standpoint.

Authors of school textbooks tried to play down Japan`s colonial domination of Asia and its atrocities in the past by glossing over its wars of aggression and expansionist policies and asserting its superiority over Korea and Japan. They attempted to present the Pacific War, the occupation of Manchuria and invasion of China in a positive light, or tone them down and drop them altogether whenever those historical facts did not suit their tastes.

Japan hopes to be a leader of an open international society, seeking, for instance, permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council. However, its historical perception is reverting to a closed exclusiveness instead of an open universality. It failed to deal thoroughly with the aftermath of its wartime crimes as Germany did, and is now trying to erase its old wrongdoings from the historical records. It is unfortunate that Japan seems to believe that it is ``a small yet glorious imperial country`` or ``a divine nation.``

Japan is urged to earnestly reflect upon its historical mistakes, war crimes and other wrongdoings done to others, documenting them in explicit historical versions. We should monitor how its existing inaccurately textbooks would be used. These prejudiced and skewed textbooks must be done away with if the Japanese with to demonstrate their sound intellect and bring up new generations with an accurate view of history.

The Korean government ought also to do more to grapple with the consequences of the unjust authorization of such textbooks by the Japanese government. Mere statements of regret will hardly suffice. Our protest needs to be delivered through concrete actions.

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