A strong, wise responseKorea-Japan relations seemed to be warming but they are about to chill abruptly. That is because of a media report that Japan s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has decided to state that Takeshima, the Japanese name for the Dokdo Islets, is Japan s territory in a revised curriculum handbook for Japanese teachers.
According to the report, the textbooks for Japanese middle school students which are to be used in schools from 2012 will state that the Dokdo Islets are Japanese territory. Claiming that the islets are Japanese territory is one thing, but teaching it to young students is another. This is a grave act that can t be overlooked.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said yesterday that the Japanese government s claim that Takeshima is Japanese territory hadn t changed, but how to write about the issue in the teachers guidebook hasn t been decided yet.
Nonetheless, President Lee Myung-bak demanded a correction if the report was true and Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan called in the Japanese ambassador to Korea to express strong disagreement and demand correction. They made such stern responses because they see this as an important issue that requires pre-emptive action. The Japanese government has stated in textbooks that Japan has sovereignty over the Northern Territories, but Japan hasn t done so regarding the Dokdo Islets. Until now. Now Japan is attempting to cross the line.
It was only a month ago that the leaders of the two countries met and declared a new era for Korea and Japan. They agreed not to make the same mistake as before, saying they couldn t move forward if they were shackled by the past.
If the Japanese government has since been working to tell its youth that the Dokdo Islets are Japan s territory in the textbook, it has broken trust with Korea. Considering the possible impact of this issue, the Japanese government must change course on this topic immediately.
The Blue House and the Korean government protested vigorously and demanded a correction, in part because of political considerations and the feelings of the Korean people. The Dokdo Islets are indisputably Korean territory in which Korean sovereignty is in force. The Korean government must be aware that it could make the same mistake as the former administration if it is overwhelmed by public reaction. It should make a stern yet wise response.