New Japanese Textbook 'Liberal' with the Truth

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New Japanese Textbook 'Liberal' with the Truth

The Committee for a New History Textbook is a group of Japanese right-wing historians who have been calling for a new historiography in secondary education textbooks that will cultivate national pride in students' minds. After several years' work, they have published a new textbook and will apply for authorization from the Japanese Ministry of Education to allow its use.

A single glance is enough to see what it is up to. The overall impression is not so much one of a textbook as of blatant propaganda. The colonization of Korea in 1910, it reads, "was undertaken for the purpose of stabilizing East Asian situations, and was carried out in a fully legal way, with the consent of the Western countries." Such a flat denial of the forced annexation is something really new. But in another part of the book, it confides that Korea was annexed because "the location of the Korean Peninsula means that it may at any time become a threat to Japan." Not only Korea, but all the Southeast Asian nations invaded by Japan were grateful for the invasion because it inspired in them hope for independence, says this textbook.

Even more troubling is its racist vision of history. For instance, the Russo-Japanese War (1904) was "the victory of a newly modernized colored nation over a vast empire of white people, which distilled endless hope in the minds of all the oppressed nations in the world." Its overall tone surpasses that of pre-1945 textbooks in its glorification of the Japanese nation and emphasis on loyalty to the emperor. The writers claim to be 'liberalist' historians, believing that different nations are entitled to different historiographies. Liberal they surely are, but what liberalists!

Such an extreme outlook may surprise some people, but not those who are familiar with the recent political atmosphere in Japan - an atmosphere in which the prime minister refers publicly to his country as "the land of Gods." But don't feel too badly about Mori Yoshiro. His blunders are just amiable mischief, when compared to the persistent bigotry of the person considered the likeliest to succeed him if the position were to be filled through a general election: Mayor Ishihara Shintaro of Tokyo.

For more than half a century since the 1945 surrender, Japan has failed to fully reconcile with other East Asian countries, primarily because of its reluctance to admit its past wrongdoing. If Japan is determined to enter the new century by itself, it can authorize whatever textbooks it cares for, but if the Japanese realize that the age to come is one to be shared not only with neighboring nations but with all the nations in the world, it should set certain limits to some people's 'liberality'.

There are things to be done by our government, too. It should convey to the Japanese government through diplomatic channels the Korean people's estimation of the appropriateness of the book in question as a middle-school textbook. It could seek to coordinate measures with North Korea and China. Ten years ago, France and Germany collaborated with other European nations to compile a 'European History', which is used as a textbook in many European countries. If the Europeans can do such a thing why not the East Asians?

by Joseph W. Chung

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