[EDITORIALS]Japan's TurnThe aide-memoire demanding Japan to rectify its junior high history textbooks was delivered to the Japanese government yesterday. By compiling the results of the scrutiny of the eight controversial textbooks, including the one published by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and Fuso Publishing Inc., into 35 passages and delivering them to Japan, Korea has in fact put the ball in Japan's court.
What remains is to see how forthcoming the Japanese government will be. We will closely watch their response in the hope that the friendly relations between the two countries would not be damaged.
What has been confirmed in the demands is the distorted historical understanding in certain parts of Japanese society. The most problematic textbook, published by Fuso, consistently distorts historical facts by embellishing Japanese history from ancient to modern history and hiding embarrassing parts.
Further, it claims as true the view that Japan invaded southern Korea from the fourth to the sixth century, despite historical research by both Korean and Japanese scholars over the past 50 years that confirms the contrary. It also does not hesitate to say that Shilla, Paekje and Kaya paid tribute to Japan based on one document.
At the same time, by using the metaphor of describing the Korean peninsula as "a forearm stretched out toward Japan," it does not shrink from resorting to eccentric reasoning that suggests the inevitability of the Japanese invasion and the rule of Korea for Japan's defense. By writing, "There were calls in certain parts of Korea to concede to the annexation" (with regard to the forceful annexation of Korea in 1910), it intentionally highlights the views of the few pro-Japanese Koreans. On the other hand, most of the textbooks tried to conceal the cruelty of the Japanese army by intentionally omitting mention of the "comfort stations" during World War II. Not mentioning them after the Japanese government itself acknowledged in 1993 the existence of sex slaves and the Japanese army's responsibility can only be seen as an attempt to hide their embarrassing past.
Japan claims that the textbooks were authorized lawfully, based on the historical understanding expressed in a statement made in 1995 by then Prime Minister Murayama and the 1998 bilateral joint partnership declaration, and specifically based on the clause that specifies consideration for neighboring countries' sensitivities in writing textbooks.
That is a fig leaf － hiding the sun with a hand. The claim leads to suspicion that the Japanese government is tacitly aligned with the right-wing forces that are striving to instill in Japanese youth a sense of racial superiority, ultra-nationalism and an imperialist outlook.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said, "We need to sincerely accept the claims made by Korea and actively review the textbooks," while also declaring that revising them is not possible. History is not something that should be made up, distorted and embellished.
Rectifying these errors would in itself enhance the intellectual climate in Japan and would prove Japan's superiority as a leader in Asia. Mr. Koizumi should heavily weigh this point and exert great efforts to meet our demands. He should resign himself to the fact that attempting to let the issue subside by pretending to make efforts or buy time will only lead to a crisis in our bilateral relations. It will also lead to a lonely existence for Japan, not only in Asia, but in the world.