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Korean Government: No More Subtle Diplomacy With Japan

Posted March. 11, 2005 22:47,   


It has been confirmed that Japan’s extreme right wing Association for New History Textbooks, or Tsukurukai, distorted historical content in a textbook draft submitted for government screening. For instance, the draft includes passages that claim the people of Joseon, the name of Korea at the time of the Japanese colonial rule, volunteered to change their names to Japanese ones, as opposed to being forced to do so. If the draft passes the screening, it is highly likely to spark yet another heated controversy over a “history-distorting textbook,” as it did in 2001.

The textbook is to be for middle school students and has two versions: a citizen textbook and a history textbook. Fusosha Textbook Publishing Company, a right wing publishing firm, submitted the draft to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology last April for screening. The screening process will be finished by early next month, and schools will be given time to choose textbooks they want to use up until August. The chosen textbooks will be used at schools starting next year.

The submitted draft contains an editorial titled: “Japan helped modernize Joseon,” which writes that Japanese colonial rule contributed to the modernization of Joseon. In addition, the draft does not include a passage contained in current history textbooks that say, “Japanese colonial rule inflicted pain and sacrifice upon the people of Joseon.” Instead, it states that some people in Joseon accepted the 1910 Annexation Treaty between Joseon and Japan.

The textbook draft briefly mentions Japan’s forced recruitment of Koreans, saying, “During the final days of World War Two, expanded military recruitment took place.” The draft does not mention the forced aspect of the recruitment nor does it mention those Japan forced to become “comfort women.” It also states that Joseon was a vassal of China in the late 19th century.

The draft contains a photo of Dokdo at the beginning of the book and introduces the islets as “Takeshima, the territory under dispute between Korea and Japan.” Takeshima is the Japanese name for Dokdo. The draft also argues that, “history and international law defines the islets as a territory of Japan.”

The Korean government is ready to take stern action if the draft passes the screening. Korea’s diplomatic policies toward Japan have come to a turning point since the recent territory disputes over Dokdo. The government has decided that subtle diplomacy has had its day, and is using a more aggressive approach where the government “says what it must say” to Japan. Considering such a trend, there is a good possibility that the Korean government will react more sternly than it did in 2001 when it ordered the Korean ambassador to Japan back to Korea.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said Friday that “it is highly regrettable that the submitted draft justifies past wrongdoings and disparages the history of neighboring nations from a self-centered perspective. We plan to form a government-wide counter-plan team and seek necessary measures.”

Meanwhile, the “Solidarity for Peaceful Asia and History Education” association held a press conference Friday afternoon and said, “Tsukurukai has put forth an even worse textbook draft than in 2001. We plan to launch a nationwide campaign so that the history-distorting, counterfeit textbook will not be adopted in schools.”

The draft also includes passages seriously distorting Japan’s past history with China. For example, there is a statement that Japan’s invasion of China and subsequent annexation of Manchuria in 1931 was driven by an anti-Japanese movement. Such content are expected to give rise to serious diplomatic disputes between Japan and China.

Jong-Koo Yang Jae-Myoung Lee jkmas@donga.com egija@donga.com