Tokyo rocks the boatJapan’s authorization of new high school textbooks with renewed claims over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea has splashed cold water on improving relations between Seoul and Tokyo following their settlement of the issue on Japan’s wartime enslavement of Korean women.
Of 35 newly endorsed social studies textbooks for high schools across Japan, 27, or 78 percent, claim that Korea is “illegally occupying the Japanese territory, the Takeshima islets, since 1905.” Previously, 21, or 54 percent, of 39 textbooks available included a similar statement.
The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denounced the development, saying, “The Japanese government should never forget that teaching history correctly is its grave responsibility for future generations in Japan and neighboring nations that suffered from Japan’s invasion.”
The Japanese government has been using its textbook authorization power to distort facts on Dokdo in classrooms.
Since a teaching guideline for elementary and middle school education was published in a government bulletin in 2008, all government-approved elementary and middle school textbooks published from 2010 onward stated the uninhabited rocky islets were Japan’s territory.
With the expansion of such claims to high school textbooks, young Japanese will be growing up without any doubt that Korea is illegally occupying their territory throughout their 12-year education period.
The systematic push to claim sovereignty over Dokdo under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration through classroom brainwashing can seriously dent future relations between Korea and Japan.
The rise of nationalistic fervor, coupled with bogus education, could feed the dangerous idea to growing Japanese that they one day should take back their territory from Korea.
Dokdo is unquestionably Korea’s — historically, geographically and in terms of international law. No matter how desperately Japan tries, it cannot take away what’s effectively and legally Korean territory.
Feeding distorted facts to students can risk conflict in the future instead of peace and cooperation. Japan must answer for any damage to the hard-won reconciliatory mood in the bilateral relationship following the settlement of the comfort women issue.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 19, Page 30