Korea calls out Japan's decision to publish watered-down textbooks
“It is very regrettable that the Japanese government decided to dilute the extent of the coercion faced by comfort women and forced laborers in April, that textbook publishers applied for changes or the deletion of related expressions, and that the ministry recently approved the publication of the textbooks,” said Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Friday.
Five Japanese textbook publishers last Wednesday received permission from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to publish textbooks with revised language on so-called comfort women, or victims of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, and the forced laborers.
"Comfort women" is a euphemism used to refer to women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military before and during the Pacific War. Estimates of comfort women range from the tens of thousands to up to 410,000, many of Korean descent.
Millions of Koreans were subjected to forced labor during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945).
The recent permission allowed the publishers in Japan to take out the word “military” when discussing comfort women in the textbooks, a decision that was first announced during a Cabinet meeting in Japan in April.
It also allows the publishers to take out the word “forced conscription” when discussing the forced laborers from Korea during the Japanese occupation.
The textbooks with the revised terms will be used from next semester.
“The Japanese military's mobilization, recruitment and transfer by force of comfort women is an undeniable historical fact, which has been supported by the vivid testimonies of the victims, more strongly and clearly than any other document at hand,” said Korea’s Foreign Ministry. “Japan has admitted this fact and the international community has also made a clear judgement on the matter.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 released a statement on the issue of comfort women, admitting that “there existed a great number of comfort women” across comfort stations during the war, which were “operated in response to the request from the military authorities of the time.”
“Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women,” Kono said at the time, adding that the government of Japan would like to “extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”
The two countries are also at odds about the insufficient information on the history of forced labor provided to tourists at Hashima Island, a site of forced labor. The site was recognized as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2015 under the condition that Japan provide the “full history of each site.” Unesco found fault with the information provided so far, and has asked Japan to make amends by Dec. 1, 2022.
BY ESTHER CHUNG, PARK HYUN-JU [email@example.com]