Textbook hypocrisyWhen the Korean government announced a plan last year to publish state-authored history textbooks, the idea was harshly criticized. It was not the Koreans, though, who derided the plan but the Japanese. “Are you trying to teach a fantasy?,” they asked. “With no freedom of study, Korea has no chance of winning a Nobel prize.”
These reactions do not make sense because Japan’s distortion of history is getting more serious. But when an international dispute arises over a textbook, state authorship is more vulnerable than state approval. The government is entirely responsible for state-authored textbooks. Japan knows it very well. Since 1949, Japan switched from state-authored textbooks to state-approved ones. The justification was to reflect on Japan’s uniform, militarism-inspired education and move forward for the future.
But it was not the truth. It became clear that Japan was a country trying to teach a fantasy to its children. The pinnacle has been its textbooks containing a revisionist historical view promoted by Shinzo Abe’s government. Approval was simply a formality, and publishers strictly followed the guideline proposed by the country’s education ministry. Since the writers did not object to the misleading guideline or insist on autonomous authorship, facts were surely distorted. This shows the two-facedness of Abe’s textbooks.
The Abe government was meticulous and persistent. The textbook approval standards were revised in 2014 so that the government’s views could be reflected, and “instructional guidelines” were also changed. It firmly states that textbooks must describe Takeshima, the Japanese name for Dokdo, as “Japan’s inherent territory” and “illegally occupied by Korea.” Is Japan dreaming of a new imperialistic education for the 21st century?
Of course, other countries also pay great attention to history textbooks, attempting to reduce their shameful parts and highlighting proud moments. But they don’t make up facts and covet other country’s territories. Japan has not only lied but also omitted facts. The record indicating that “the island corresponding to Takeshima was determined to be unrelated to Japan in 1877” is not included in some textbooks. One book even conceals colonial rule and war crimes and states the two countries “agreed on a final and irreversible resolution” on the so-called comfort women issue.
Japan’s ears and eyes are closed on Korea’s protests. Is Abe’s textbook distortion of facts and fabrication a fantasy or a new future?
Leopold von Ranke, founder of modern source-based history, said history is the aggregated knowledge of humanity, and that it is only beautiful when it is true.
The Japanese students deserve to know the truth.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 27, Page 31
*The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
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