Japan rejects calls to change history textbooks

prime minister

Koizumi says no to history textbook revision


May 17, 2001

 From staff and wire reports


TOKYO, Japan -- China and South Korea contend that Japanese history textbooks misrepresent Japan’s wartime activities and colonization of the early 20th century and should be revised. But Japan’s new leader has stated firmly that there will be no changes. Officials within Japan’s education ministry said revisions would occur only if books contain factual errors.

In protest, South Korea has decided to postpone its July joint military exercises with Japan. An ambassador from South Korea also said the dispute could hinder the two countries’ efforts in co-hosting next year’s World Cup soccer finals.

Earlier this week, an official of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing called in a representative of the Japanese embassy to demand changes to one textbook.


"The textbook, through history-distorting facts, tries to deny the aggressive nature of the war, mentioning only lightly and even trying to conceal the crimes committed by its militarists," the official was quoted in the People's Daily.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out what his country said are major mistakes in the textbook to Japanese Ambassador Koreshige Anami.

China’s complaints

Chinese media reported that Japan's history textbook "advocates imperialism, and whitewashes and denies Japan's history of aggression."

China's state media outlet, the People's Daily, commented that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's controversial decision to pay homage at the Yasukuni Shrine is also something that makes people worry about his understanding of history.

A Japanese prince, who was a high-ranking official in the country’s imperialist army, ordered construction of the shrine in 1868. The shrine, whose name means peace of the empire, has since been dedicated to the Japanese who died in wars between 1854 and 1945. The shrine contains the bodies of soldiers including six war criminals, and visits by leaders call in to question their views on the atrocities committed by war criminals.

Koizumi has said: "I would like to come up with wisdom to find a way to understand and respect each other's positions so as to improve ties between Japan and China."

South Korea’s perspective

South Korea has objected to Japan's justification of its 1910 to 1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula as being necessary for stability.

Leaders say the book justifies Japan's invasion of much of Asia in the early 20th century and fails to explain the plight of more than 100,000 women, most of them from the Korean peninsula, who were exploited during World War II.

South Korea argues that the textbook highlights the benefits of the Japanese colonial period in Korea such as the development of railways and manufacturing industries.

Japan has said the textbook does not represent the government's official view of history. But a group of South Korean lawmakers has applied for a court injunction in Japan to halt the sale of one book intended to be circulated next year for students aged 13 to 15.

The South Korean ambassador to Japan, Choi Sang-ryong, urged Japan to take action to resolve the textbook issue so the two countries could successfully co-host next year’s soccer championship.

"One must not erase or distort confirmed facts," Choi told a Tokyo seminar. "We should overcome this textbook issue…. The South Korean side has never raised the issue of the past. The issue emerged in the process of screening history textbooks," he said. "This does not constitute our interference in Japan's internal affairs."





the process of placing and ruling people in a new territory that retains ties with the parent state.



one who advocates an aggressive military policy



the policy of extending the power and domination of a nation, especially by directly acquiring territory or by gaining indirect control over the politics or economics of other areas



an expression of high respect



extremely cruel or vicious actions



a steady state; balance or constancy



a court order requiring someone to do or to refrain from doing something


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