[VIEWPOINT]Textbook Offends Morally - and Legally

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[VIEWPOINT]Textbook Offends Morally - and Legally

There are increasing concerns that relations between Korea and Japan, which looked finally to be warming after decades of distrust, will be scuttled due to the Japanese government's approval of a history textbook that glosses over or contests some of the events of the nations' troubled shared past.

How sovereignty chooses to educate its people is an internal matter and should not concern other nations. However, there are a few exceptions to this principle. Interventions that serve to prevent the violation of international laws represent one of these exceptions.

Intervening in Japanese domestic affairs with regard to this matter can be justified because the Japanese government has already violated international laws in a number of aspects by approving this distorted history textbook.

First, the Japanese government violated the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea of 1965. In 1905, Japan snatched away Korea's diplomatic rights by forcibly imposing the Japan-Korea Protection Treaty, and it deprived Korea of the power to govern itself in 1907. In 1910, Japan illegally annexed Korea by establishing the Treaty of Annexation of Korea by Japan.

Upon normalizing diplomatic ties between Japan and Korea, the two countries signed the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and ROK in 1965. The treaty nullifies all treaties and agreements made before Aug. 22, 1910 between Japan and what was then called the Daehan Empire. Therefore, it confirmed again that Japan's governance over Korea after 1905 was illegal. Based on this, Japan violates the treaty by approving the history textbook, which contests the fact that Japan's seizure of Korea was illegal.

Second, the Japanese government is violating the official Instrument of Surrender of 1945 by approving the textbook. Korea was assured autonomy from Japan in the Cairo Declaration of Jan. 27, 1943 and the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945. Korea finally became an independent nation on Aug. 15, 1945. On Sep. 2, 1945, Japan's declaration of its unconditional surrender was stipulated in writing and signed by the Allied nations and Japan. By acceding to the Cairo Declaration, Japan admitted that its colonization and exploitation of the Korean Peninsula through its armed force and avarice had resulted in the subjugation of the Korean people to a state of slavery. Therefore, Japanese government violates international law by approving the textbook, which contests the Instrument of Surrender.

Third, the Japanese government violates the 1976 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by approving the textbook in concern. Clause one of Article 13 of the covenant states that "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace." This textbook goes against these principles, and therefore violates the covenant. It is crystal clear that the Japanese government's approval of the textbook violates the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and ROK, the official Instrument of Surrender, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Therefore, the Korean government's protest against Japan is legally justified as an intervention on grounds of violation of international law. The Japanese government should be aware that distorting history will also offend friendly people in neighboring countries and outrage humanity. Japan should revise the textbook.


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The writer is professor of law at Myong Ji University.


by Kim Myung-ki

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