Koreans burn Japanese products in protest over history textbook

SEOUL, South Korea, AP

South Korean protesters on Saturday burned piles of Japanese products to condemn Japan’s approval of a middle-school history textbook that critics say whitewashes the former colonial power’s wartime atrocities.

“Let’s not buy Japanese products,” chanted 70 protesters — mostly small children and elderly men — as they set fire to a heap of Japanese-made Mild Seven cigarettes and toys featuring cartoon characters Pokemon and Hello Kitty.

After their rally at a park in downtown Seoul, the demonstrators distributed leaflets to passers-by, denouncing the Tokyo government for approving the textbook.

The textbook rekindled anti-Japanese sentiments in South Korea, where 35 years of Japanese colonial rule from 1910 until the end of the World War II in 1945 remain a bitter memory.

During Japan’s colonial rule, Koreans were banned from using their own language and names in school. Thousands of young Koreans also were forced into labor or sexual slavery for Japanese troops.

South Korea began opening its market to Japanese films, cartoons and pop culture in the mid-’90s to mend relations with Japan, a major trade partner in the postwar years.

Critics say the textbook justifies Japan’s occupation of its Asian neighbors and emphasizes the suffering of the Japanese people instead of the atrocities inflicted by its military.

South Korea demands that Japan rewrite the textbook. China and other Asian nations have also berated the Japanese government for approving the textbook.

South Korea temporarily recalled its ambassador to Japan on Tuesday amid rising public criticism that the administration is not doing enough to protest the textbook.