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[Editorial] Once Again Pinning Hope on the Conscience of the Japanese People

[Editorial] Once Again Pinning Hope on the Conscience of the Japanese People

Posted April. 05, 2005 23:38,   


Yesterday, the Japanese Education Ministry released results of a review on history and civil studies textbooks which are to be used from 2006. Korea has emphasized the review results as critical in improving the strained bilateral relations. However, the results were disappointing.

Regarding Dokdo, Fusosha Publishers added a picture of Dokdo in its civil studies textbook that was not included in its 2001 edition, and explained that the islets were “illegally occupied by Korea.” The civil studies textbooks of Tokyo Books and Osaka Books and the geography textbook of Nihon Books also added that Dokdo was “Japanese territory” or “in Japanese territorial waters.” The textbook changes have been made for the worse.

Of the 30 problematic parts of Fusosha’s history textbook, 17 parts remained the same as those of the previous editions, and eight parts were “improved” or “partially improved.” However, five parts were changed for the worse, including a column entitled “Modernization of Joseon and Japan,” to which distortions that Japan helped modernize Joseon were added. The fact that the explanations of military comfort women were scrapped from the textbook of Shimizu publishing company are also problematic.

The Korean government pointed out, “Japan’s claim of sovereignty over Dokdo is a means to justify its colonial rule and goes against the liberation history of our nation. The history textbooks are very faulty based on universal values and historic facts.” These opinions are reasonable.

Regarding the review process, Korea is concerned over the fact that the rule of “taking the criticism of neighboring nations into consideration when writing textbooks” has lost all effectiveness, and additional publishing houses have also started to distort history. It is regrettable that the Japanese education minister, the highest official responsible for the textbook review, fueled such distortions by saying, “We must change our teaching strategies and clearly state that Dokdo is Japanese territory. Because of the rule of considering neighboring nation’s opinions, we have a history education of self-blame.”

It is rash for Japan to try to play a leading role in the international society when it feels no regret over its recent history, and it has not earned the trust of neighboring nations. Japan must look back and think about why street protests and boycott campaigns on Japanese products are expanding even in China. Only a nation that can teach factual history to the next generation, even if it is shameful history, has the right to be a leading nation. It is not economic power alone that defines a leading nation.

We cannot make compromises on the Dokdo sovereignty issue. However, we once again pin hope on Japan’s conscience regarding the textbooks. The fact that Fusosha’s 2001 history textbook had a 0.039 percent selection rate symbolized a victory of Japan’s conscientious intellectuals and civic groups. The Korean government must strengthen ties with these parties once again to reduce the chance for selection. Overseas public relation activities must also be promoted in order not to neglect informing others that Dokdo is Korean territory. Diplomatic powers must also be in full force at the Korea-Japan Foreign Ministers’ meeting slated for April 7.