Japan office never existed in 4th century
After two years of joint study, 34 historians from Korea and Japan have agreed to rewrite one small but significant point of history - but whether Japanese textbook publishers will agree to do the same remains to be seen.
The Korea-Japan Joint History Research Committee yesterday revealed that the study that began in June 2007 failed to establish common interpretations of several sensitive historical events.
However, they did agree that a disputed Japanese government office said to have been established in the fourth century to rule Korean kingdoms never existed. Some Japanese history textbooks have written that the Imna Japanese Headquarters was set up in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and ruled ancient Korean dynasties such as Baekje and Silla through the sixth century.
The nonexistent headquarters have been used by some Japanese to justify their country’s annexation of Korea by arguing that Japan was merely following in the footsteps of its imperialist ancestors.
Cho Kwang, the Korean head of the research committee, said it will ask the Japanese government to request that textbook publishers remove sections about the Imna headquarters. But the historians’ recommendations cannot be enforced, as they are not legally binding. Cho acknowledged that historians still have much work left to do to narrow their differences.
“Seventeen historians from each country selected 24 topics of common interest, and there are many differences still left unresolved,” Cho said. “Through dozens of meetings, we discussed what we have in common and where we have our differences.”
A significant area of disagreement was the signing of the Eulsa Treaty in 1905. The deal stripped Korea of its diplomatic sovereignty and full annexation occurred five years later. While some in Japan have still argued the treaty was legally sound, Koreans have countered that the deal was forced upon them by the Japanese.
Addressing the study on the deal, Cho said the Japanese historians “offered quite different opinions and we told them we couldn’t agree with their view.” Cho added, however, that the historians’ view doesn’t necessarily represent the position of the Japanese government. The Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and Korea, signed in 1965, nullified the Eulsa deal.
Cho explained that the 1910 annexation itself wasn’t among the 24 topics of study.
The committee was established in October 2001, following a summit between the leaders at the time, Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The first round of the joint research was completed in June 2005.
The latest findings will be published in books and CDs and will be distributed to government agencies, universities, historical research bodies and textbook publishers.
By Yoo Jee-ho [firstname.lastname@example.org]