Japan OKs textbooks, all with claims over Dokdo

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Japan OKs textbooks, all with claims over Dokdo

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Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Koro Bessho is summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul, as the Korean government protests Japan’s approval of middle school textbooks that push Tokyo’s claim over the Dokdo islets. [NEWSIS]

For the first time, all 18 middle school textbooks in three subjects approved through a Japanese Education Ministry review on Monday exerted Tokyo’s claim over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea, a move that has prompted strong backlash from Seoul.

On Monday, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced the results of its review of textbooks to be used in middle schools nationwide in spring 2016.

The textbooks approved in a review - eight history books, four geography books and six social science textbooks - contain content reinforcing Tokyo’s claims over Dokdo including excerpts that claims the islets are Japan’s “inherent territory” or that Seoul is an illegal occupier.

Currently 11 middle school textbooks contain text references to Dokdo, which Japan calls Takeshima.

The number of middle school textbooks that purport that Korea is “illegally occupying” Dokdo increased from four to 13 - a three-fold increase from the last review conducted four years ago.

Starting in April 2016, some 3.5 million Japanese middle school students have three school subjects in which their materials reinforce the idea that Dokdo is Japanese territory. The prospect is an additional cause for alarm for Korea, which has long denounced the Shinzo Abe administration’s tendency toward historical revisionism.

Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-yong summoned Koro Bessho, the Japanese ambassador to Seoul, to lodge a complaint against Tokyo over the issue.

At the Foreign Ministry in central Seoul, Cho urged Tokyo to “abandon its retrograde views of history,” emphasizing that Dokdo is Korea’s inherent territory historically, geographically and by international law.

All eight history textbooks approved by the Education Ministry’s textbook review committee on Monday contain text that states that the Dokdo islets were incorporated as Japan’s territory in 1905.

Seoul has maintained that Japan’s attempt to incorporate Dokdo into its own territory in 1905 was an illegal act and that the islets were the first Korean territory to fall victim to Japan’s aggressions before its subsequent colonial rule.

The Abe administration has been criticized for its tendencies toward historical revisionism and distortion due to its efforts to change content, both domestically and in the United States, that pertains to its territorial claims and its wartime aggressions.

In January 2014, the Japanese government revised its teaching guidelines for middle and high school textbooks to promote a more hardline nationalist agenda, particularly over its territorial claims.

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A social science textbook approved by the Japanese government states Japan’s claim over Dokdo. [NEWSIS]

The Japanese Education Ministry also revised the standards for textbook authorization that call for a unified government position to be reflected in its textbooks concerning historical and territorial issues.

In April 2014, Japan’s Education Ministry’s textbook authorization committee approved fifth- and sixth-grade social studies textbooks from four publishers that explicitly claim Dokdo as Japanese territory that is “illegally” occupied by Seoul. Those books will be used in classrooms from this month.

Japan conducts separate textbook reviews for elementary, middle and high school textbooks every four years.

While high school textbooks containing Japan’s claims over Dokdo are common, the fact that the Education Ministry is targeting younger students is a notable point of concern for South Korea.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said in a statement on Monday that the Japanese government had committed a “provocation” by “approving of middle school textbooks that distort, downsize and omit unequivocal history.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Gwang-il further said, “Because this year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Korean and Japan, our government urges the Japanese government to return to the spirit of the 1982 Miyazawa Statement and the 1993 Kono Statement, and with a sincere posture, work toward improving bilateral relations,” citing two pivotal statements acknowledging Japan’s responsibility for its past transgressions.

On Aug. 26, 1982, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kiichi Miyazawa said that the Japanese government and its people were “deeply aware of the fact that acts by our country in the past caused tremendous suffering and damage to the peoples of Asian countries, including the Republic of Korea and China, and have followed the path of a pacifist state with remorse and determination that such acts must never be repeated.”

The landmark 1993 Kono Statement, issued by Yohei Kono, the chief cabinet secretary at the time, acknowledged for the first time that Japan’s military had coerced thousands of Asian women into sexual slavery during World War II and apologized for its wartime atrocities.

Korea’s Ministry of Education, scholars and civilian organizations issued similar protests on Monday over the Japanese government’s middle school textbook review results.

Japan is also set to announce today its annual Diplomatic Bluebook, which would again purport its claim over the Dokdo islets, heightening concerns that ties between Seoul and Tokyo could further be frayed over ongoing historical and territorial issues.

The Korean Foreign Ministry updated its website on Dokdo to explain the history behind the islets. Information from the site is available in 11 languages, including Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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