[OUTLOOK]Textbooks damage relations

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[OUTLOOK]Textbooks damage relations

As expected, Japan’s Ministry of Education has approved a distorted history book written by the Japanese Association for Publishing the New History Book and published by Fusosha.
Disturbingly, Japan’s Education Ministry cooperated in the publishing of the book and played a role in its production.
In particular, a former education minister met with a right-wing association in 2004 and made a speech sympathizing with the association’s view of history.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the business world also actively supported the association. Therefore, it may not be wrong to say that the Fusosha history textbook probably represents how the Japanese reflect on and understand their own history. In order to glorify Japanese history, the textbook modifies Korean history as if it were subordinate to and dependent on Japanese history. And it rationalizes colonization of Asian countries and beautifies its colonial rule, while claiming that its invasions during World War II resulted in the liberation of Asian nations.
It creates an impression that Japan is a victim by exaggerating the damages Japan sustained from the war. Consequently, we can conclude that the new history book is simply a sly revision that is worse than the 2001 version.
The description of the Dokdo islands has also been changed for the worse. In 2001, it was limited to the Fusosha textbook, but now even the Tokyo publishing company and Osaka publishing company, which publish textbooks used by many Japanese schools, joined hands with Fusosha publishing.
The application version of the Fusosha book just describes the Dokdo issue as a confrontation over territorial rights, but the final version of the book goes further to state that Korea has been illegally occupying the islands.
Japan’s provocations through its textbooks have shown what could be a dangerous new vision by Japan’s leaders and its society in general.
Ultimately, their goal is to revise Japan’s peace constitution and put the country back on a war-ready footing. To put it in their words, “The problem of history education is an important one that is closely linked, as one, to the revision of the constitution and the education law.”
Considering the current attitude of the Japanese government, this is not a mistake. The only thing we can do now is stop the distorted textbooks from actually being used in schools and studied.
Needless to say, a strong message of protest must be delivered to Japan by our government, but it would be even wiser to concentrate on actively supporting the activities of academic and civic organizations that have been continuously studying this problem.
Less than 1 percent of schools chose the Fusosha textbook in 2001, and the book’s production produced a record deficit of 300 million yen.
The publishing house announced then that it would get its “revenge” by raising the rate of adoption of its book at schools by more than 10 percent four years later.
The association strengthened its membership by doubling the number of its members through the help of religious organizations. It also revised education related clauses of the law so that schools could easily choose its book and even went through the delicate process of making the size of the book and letters larger to make it easier to read.
What is important here is that the movement to oppose the Fusosha textbook must be led by conscientious civic groups of Japan. In fact, their dedicated activities were the reason why the Fusosha books suffered such a large deficit in 2001.
By refraining from taking extreme counteractions, we have to avoid helping Japanese right-wing forces from gaining power, while encouraging the activities of conscientious Japanese civic organizations.
In addition, we need to expand exchanges between our two countries by actively supporting “Korea-Japan Year of Friendship.”
We have to let people know how much the damage caused by Japanese right-wingers has hurt what has been a growing friendship between Korea and Japan.
We must also visit local autonomous bodies and education commissions that pick what textbooks to be used in the schools and initiate more contact with the Japanese press.
The Japanese history textbook problem is not simply a conflict over historical descriptions between Korea and Japan but a problem that is directly linked with the peace and stability of Northeast Asia and fundamentally the future of Japanese society.
Ultimately, it is important to expose that the right-wing new history textbook association and its supporters are a dangerous group that will lead Northeast Asia and the world into war by once again making Japan a major military power.

* The writer is a professor of modern Korean history at Sangmyung University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Joo Jin-oh
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