Go to contents

50 Discussions without Progress

Posted June. 01, 2005 06:46,   


The Korea-Japan joint committee to study history held a series of discussions at several places, including Buyeo, Gangneung, Jinju of South Korea, and Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Nara of Japan. The committee had three sub-committees according to their focus on ancient history, medieval history, and modern history. Besides the main researchers, South Korea sent 91 additional research collaborators, carrying out studies on 103 separate subjects related to the history of Korea-Japanese relations that they directly selected.

However, the two neighboring nations had different purposes. South Korea hoped that the joint study would stop Japan’s historical distortion and eventually lead to a joint history textbook, while Japan seemed to strongly expect the joint study to make the heated disputes regarding the historical distortion fade away.

Such conflicting attitudes toward the study inflicted on the study process and the result as well. To make the committee effective, South Korea argued that both governments’ officials must work together, which didn’t happen due to Japan’s refusal.

Furthermore, main issues, such as sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army and history distortions, were excluded from study subjects. The result of the joint study was not even carried in any history textbooks. Unlike South Korea, which uses a single history textbook authorized by the government, Japan allows several textbooks by private publishers that passed the government’s standard. This is reportedly known as the reason Japan presented for its refusal to include the study result in their textbooks.

Cho Kwang, professor at Korea University, who led the Korean researcher team, said that “A similar case took even Germany and France 30 years of joint study since the 1970s, until they finally agreed to use the joint textbook,” when he released the research result on May 31.

The final report of over 2,000 pages on A4 paper failed to result in a harmonized accomplishment that receives recognition of historians from both nations, and it ended as an array of claims by each nation.

The South Korean government and the committee plan to publish a book carrying the final report during June and distribute it to libraries nationwide. The book will be also used as a reference when editing history textbooks.

The government is planning to announce the official launch of the second joint study on history at the South Korea-Japan summit meeting scheduled on June 20.

Jong-Koo Yoon Hyung-June Park jkmas@donga.com lovesong@donga.com