Japan history textbook blasted

SEOUL, Reuters

South Korea on Wednesday summoned Japan’s ambassador over a Japanese history textbook that glosses over Tokyo’s past imperialism and Korean lawmakers passed a resolution to demand the book be corrected.

The high school text, if approved by a panel now reviewing it, could be in classrooms in Japan from next year.

South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Joung-binn called in Ambassador Terada Terusuke regarding the book, which glosses over Japan’s past imperialism, including its 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula.

“The minister conveyed his and the public’s worries (on the issue) and asked Tokyo to take wise steps,” a ministry spokesman said.

“Lee made it clear that correct awareness of history is a precondition to forward-looking relations between the two countries,” he said.

The Korea Teachers and Workers Union also issued a statement, saying it would protest the textbook, partly by holding a joint history class with Japanese students.

Separately, about 200 members of a veterans’ group and a Christian organization held a protest rally in downtown Seoul, at which they burnt an effigy of Japanese politician Hosei Norota and a pile of imported Japanese cigarettes.

Norota, chairman of the budget committee of the powerful Lower House, drew criticism from across Asia earlier this month after saying Japan was not to blame for its entry into World War Two and had been forced into action by the United States.

The draft textbook has raised concerns because it fails to explain important details of Japan’s 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula, including the fact Koreans were forced to use the Japanese language and pledge loyalty to its emperor.

More broadly, it characterizes Japan’s former imperialism and World War Two victories over Western powers as a force that helped colonized nations in Asia attain independence.

Japan’s late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi extended a written apology to President Kim Dae-jung in 1998 that paved the way to improve decades of strained relations.

Korea has eased rules that had for years banned any import of Japanese cultural items, including books, music and films.

South Korea’s lawmakers passed a resolution on Wednesday calling for Japan to correct the history textbook, threatening to completely review the schedule of further cultural openings.

The two nations are due to join together as the first ever co-hosts of soccer’s World Cup finals in 2002.

Thousands of Koreans were also forced into slave labor in Japan during the war, triggering a lawsuit filed against six Japanese companies in Los Angeles on Tuesday.