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New Japanese Textbook Distorts History

Posted March. 11, 2005 22:41,   


The latest version of a “new” history book that Fusosha middle school in Japan has requested its government to examine for publication has turned out to contain more distortions of history and “window dressing” of Japan’s wartime atrocities than in its 2001 version. The new version has been supported by a Japanese rightist group called, “The Japanese Association for History Textbook Reform.”

An analysis of the latest version was released on March 11 by the “Asia Peace and History Education Network,” also known as the “Civilian Movement for Correcting Japans Distorted Textbooks,” led by Sungkyunkwan University history professor Seo Joong-seok.

According to the analysis, the “new” Japanese textbook overemphasizes the dependency and heteronomy of the pre-modern history of Korea, and beautified its invasion of the Korean Peninsula by distorting its opening. The book claims the colonization was justified in the name of modernization, and in the line with that, Japan’s invasion turned into an inevitable choice.

A History of Dependency and Heteronomy On the Korean Peninsula—

The distortion of the ancient history of the peninsula has worsened compared to the 2001 version. The book places the territory of Daifeng, one of four Chinese commanderies, near the current Seoul area, which is farther south than is supported by mainstream theory. This claim is inconsistent with the general analysis among in circles that has long believed Daifeng was located near Bongsan, Hwanghae province. Page 32 of the book contains a Fourth Century map that still displays Luolang (or Nangnang), another Chinese commandery, in Pyeongyang, though it had already been evicted in 313.

The contents regarding Kaya (in Japanese, Mimana) are lengthier, claiming that on the southern part of the Korean peninsula existed the Japanese colonial state. Even on the map, the territory of the state was extended to include Kaya and Mahan (present day Jeolla province). Such a claim is reflecting the view that the history of the northern part of the Korean peninsula was started by China, while that of the southern part by Japan, which is no more than a reproduction of the colonialism of the past.

The book also claims that Shilla was subordinate to the Tang dynasty (page 42), and Joseon was a subjugated and tributary state to the Qing dynasty (page 148 and 163).

Rationalization of the Colonization of the Peninsula—

The previous version contained the expression that due to geopolitical reasons, the Korean peninsula could be a threat to Japan, if it was to come under the control of a hostile large nation. This expression is now more detailed and lengthened on page 163, beautifying its colonization by saying that Japan helped Joseon modernize for security reasons. The Korean civilian movement said that the term, “modernization,” that was used one time in the 2001 version, is used four times in the 2005 version.

The new version has even restored previously deleted content on Japan’s forceful annexation of Korea. It now says that some Koreans were in favor of the annexation (on page 170), though they voluntarily deleted the phrase in 2001.

On the other hand, the content regarding their atrocities during the colonial period has been shortened or has become less detailed. The intentionally deleted content on “comfort women” and “forcibly conscripted labor” that had been harshly criticized is still not found in the latest version. Another deleted phrase is, “During the colonial period, people on the Korean peninsula were forced to go through sacrifices and pain. In the 2001 version, the book said Korean people were forced to change their names to Japanese and to follow Japanese culture. But in the 2005 version, the books says Korean people were allowed to change their names to Japanese and that policies to “Japan-ize” Korean people began (on page 208), weakening the forcefulness of their colonial policies.

Distortion and Beautification of the Invasion—

On the subject of the Sino-Japanese war, the new textbook still claims that the war was inevitable because Russia had built military facilities in the northern part of the peninsula, which was actually a lumber site (on page 166). Japan’s victory was beautified as hope for the colonized (page 168), portraying Japan as a rescuer of the Korean people suppressed by the oppression of imperialism.

The “Greater East Asia War” and Pacific War are defined as wars to protect Japan’s self-existence (pages 202~203). In addition, the compensation it had to pay after the defeat was not mentioned, and instead, the textbook added their participation in independence wars of Southeast Asian nations, describing the Greater East Asia War as a colony liberation war (pages 206-207).

The latest version newly added a section for great moments of history, in which out of five moments, four are related to war or the military. At the end of the textbook, Emperor Hirohito, who was responsible for the Second World War and Japan’s reign of colonial rule, appears, strongly giving the impression of militarist sentiment.

Chae-Hyun Kwon confetti@donga.com