Teachers meeting slams Japan textbooks

JOMTIEN, Thailand, AFP

Controversial textbooks accused of whitewashing the true history of Japanese military aggression in Asia before and during World War II were condemned Saturday by an international conference of teachers.

Education International (EI) members unanimously approved a resolution condemning the secondary school textbooks for their “glorification of Japanese colonial rule and history of aggression”.

The textbooks have caused widespread anger among Japan’s neighbors for playing down events such as the 1937 Nanjing massacre in China and the use of hundreds of thousands of Asian women as sex slaves for Japanese troops.

Seoul and Beijing have demanded dozens of changes to the books, but Tokyo has said it would only carry out two small changes as there were no “clear mistakes”.

The EI, which brings together some 300 teaching unions and organizations from 155 countries, was meeting at a conference here which is due to end on Sunday.

The resolution was put forward by a delegation from South Korea and seconded by fellow teachers from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

It said the textbooks “would damage the friendly relations among countries of the Asia-Pacific area and, moreover, have a negative influence on history that they promote.

“We remind the Japanese government that these days the international trend is to reflect on one’s own history of wars and violence … as demonstrated by Germany which has made a grave reflection of its history and given good apologies and compensation to war victims.”

EI “urges the Japanese government to immediately correct such textbooks that glorify its wars and colonial rule while distorting the historical truth,” the resolution added.

The Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsular from 1910 to 1945 had also been presented as an era of “civilization” in the books, said the South Korean delegation.

“The Japanese distort historical facts like their invasions in Asia in the 20th century and during World War II,” said Lee Dong Jin, a representative of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union.

“The Japanese invaded Korea but they are still saying that it was a kind of gift to modernize the country, simply because they have supplied electricity and water.

“But it was a kind of aggression and Korea has suffered from the Japanese invasion.”

The books were penned by the Society for History Textbook Reform, a group made up of avowed nationalist historians who assert the country has become too “masochistic” in assessing its past.

But some teachers in Japan have voiced opposition to the books.

Norio Fukuoka, president of the Japanese Teachers Union, gave his backing to the motion condemning the books.

“We support the resolution and we think it is very dangerous to use these textbooks for the learning of the children,” he told AFP.

The Japanese occupation of Korea, the imperial army’s invasion of Manchuria (northeast China) in the ‘30s and of Taiwan at the end of the 19th century and Japan’s conduct during World War II were still “painful” memories in the region, said the delegates.