Tokyo tweaks history books again, Seoul protests
The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced Tuesday that it completed screening the 239 textbooks to be used by sophomores, juniors and seniors in high schools from next year.
The textbooks include 14 on Japanese history or world history.
The ministry said that adjustments to expressions used in the textbooks included replacing “forced arrest” and “forced conscription” with “mobilization” and “conscription” to describe the history of forced laborers in Japan, including the Koreans during the 1910-45 Japanese annexation of Korea.
Around 500,000 Koreans are estimated to have been subjected to forced employment in Japan during this time.
Changes were also made to descriptions of the so-called “comfort women," a euphemism for 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.
The ministry said that the word “wartime” will be deleted when describing the comfort women.
The comfort women and forced labor issues have led to a deterioration in bilateral relations over the last few years.
On Oct. 30, 2018, the Korean Supreme Court ordered Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to compensate victims of forced labor during World War II.
The Supreme Court made a similar ruling on Nov. 29, 2018, ordering Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate a separate group of victims 80 million to 150 million won each.
Korea’s top court acknowledged the illegality of Japan’s colonial rule and recognized that individuals' rights to compensation had not expired.
Japan protested the decisions, claiming that all compensation issues related to its colonial rule were resolved through a 1965 treaty normalizing bilateral relations.
Both Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi have refused to comply with the Korean top court's rulings, forcing the victims into a drawn out legal process to seize Japanese companies’ assets in Korea.
Seoul and Tokyo attempted to resolve the comfort women issue through a deal signed on Dec. 26, 2015, which included an apology by the Japanese government and a 1-billion-yen ($8.2 million) fund for the victims.
Some civic organizations and survivors felt blindsided by the deal and demanded Japan take clearer legal responsibility. The Moon Jae-in administration said it would not scrap the 2015 bilateral deal, despite it being “flawed,” but has said it is not a true resolution of the issue.
The Seoul Central District Court ruled on Jan. 8, 2021 that the Japanese government should individually compensate a dozen women who were forced into wartime sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II, rejecting Tokyo’s claims of state immunity, saying Japan had committed systemic crimes against humanity in violation of international standards and norms. Japan protested the ruling.
Japanese history books for next year also stressed that the Dokdo islets, called Takeshima in Japan, are Japanese territory.
Seoul maintains that there is no territorial dispute as the Dokdo islets in the East Sea are historically, geographically and under international law an integral part of Korean territory.
The “government strongly protests the fact that the Japanese government once again authorized textbooks containing its preposterous claims over Dokdo, which is clearly an integral part of [Korean] territory in terms of history, geography and international law,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam in a statement on Wednesday.
Choi added that the changes made to descriptions of forced labor victims and comfort women “dilutes their coercive nature.”
BY LEE YOUNG-HEE, ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]