Japan continues to authorize history distorting textbooks saying Dokdo has always been Japanese territory

Posted on : 2020-03-25 17:36 KST Modified on : 2020-03-25 17:38 KST
14 out of 17 middle school textbooks to be used next year say S. Korea is “illegally occupying” islets
A history textbook to be used in Japanese middle schools starting next year states that Dokdo has always been Japanese territory.
A history textbook to be used in Japanese middle schools starting next year states that Dokdo has always been Japanese territory.

Claims regarding Dokdo in Japanese textbooks are worsening, with next year’s Japanese middle school textbooks poised to include wording to the effect that the islets have “never been anything but Japanese territory.” The situation is one more complicating factor amid the chill in bilateral relations since Japan imposed export controls on South Korea last year.

On. Mar. 24, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced its authorization of textbooks to be used in middle schools for a four-year period beginning in 2021. In an examination of 17 textbooks approved in three subjects in the middle school social studies -- seven in history, four in geography, and six in civics -- the Hankyoreh found that 14 of them, or 82%, included claims that South Korea is “illegally occupying” Dokdo.

In one of the social studies history textbooks, the publisher Nihon Bunkyo Shuppan wrote, “The Japanese government argues that Takeshima [the Japanese name for Dokdo] is intrinsically Japanese territory that has never been the territory of any other country.” The textbook directly reflects the position of the Japanese government, which has explained in the past that the term “intrinsically Japanese territory” means that Dokdo has never been anything other than Japanese territory.

The textbooks also showed an increased use of visual aids featuring photographs of sea lion hunting around Dokdo to bolster Japan’s territorial claims. Japan has previously used the longstanding practice of sea lion hunting around Dokdo by Japanese fishers as a basis for its territorial claims to the islets. Both Nihon Bunkyo Shuppan and Kyoiku-Shuppan included new photographs of fishers hunting sea lions. Tokyo Shoseki and Teikoku-Shoin had been including sea lion photographs since the last textbooks approved in 2015.

The Tokyo Shoseki history textbook, which is the most widely adopted, includes a passage reading, “South Korea unilaterally drew a boundary in international waters shortly before the Treaty of San Francisco took effect, placing the inherently Japanese territory of Takeshima inside and illegally occupying it.” In all, four of the seven middle school social studies history textbooks that passed certification included claims that Dokdo was “inherently Japanese territory” that South Korea was “occupying.” The phrase “illegal occupation” appeared in 100% of the 10 civics and geography textbooks.

A Japanese history textbook uses photographs of Japanese fishermen hunting sea lions near Dokdo to support the claim that the islets have always been Japanese territory.
A Japanese history textbook uses photographs of Japanese fishermen hunting sea lions near Dokdo to support the claim that the islets have always been Japanese territory.
Claims that Japan tried to peacefully resolve issue, but S. Korea “adamantly refused”

In the case of Tokyo Shoseki’s social studies civics textbook, a passage stating that Japan had “protested [South Korea’s] illegal occupation of Dokdo and proposed on three occasions in 1954, 1962, and 2008 to present the matter before the International Court of Justice to resolve it peacefully, which South Korea refused” was repeated from its 2015 authorized textbook. This means that Japanese middle school students are effectively learning the argument that Japan was “attempting to peacefully resolve the Dokdo issue” but that South Korea was “adamantly refusing” in all three of their social studies history, civics, and geography textbooks.

The amount of content devoted to Dokdo in the middle school textbooks was not substantially greater than in 2015. Under the Shinzo Abe administration, one round each of changes for the worse in elementary, middle, and high school textbooks had already taken place.

Additionally, Nihon Munkyo Shuppan repeated a section from its 2015 textbook entitled “Compensation Issues and Historical Perceptions,” in which it wrote, “While confirming that the matter of state and individual claims had been fully and finally resolved with the 1965 Japan-South Korea Claims Settlement Agreement, Japan also provided South Korea with economic aid.” No reference was made to the fact that the Japanese government denies the very existence of individual claims.

Commenting on the textbook changes, Yang Kee-ho, a professor of Japanese studies at Sungkonghoe University, called them “bad news for South Korea-Japan relations.”

“It included mention of the South Korea-Japan Claims Settlement Agreement, where Japan seems to have sent the clear message that it has no intention of conceding on the history or territory issues,” he said.

“In the case of Dokdo, they started out saying that there was a ‘territorial dispute,’ and now they’re treating South Korea as a country engaged in illegal [occupation],” he added.

S. Korean Foreign Ministry issues statement in response

In response, the South Korean government issued a statement the same day credited to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Kim In-chul.

“We strongly protest how the Japanese government has been distorting, minimizing, and omitting clear historical facts and has authorized middle school textbooks containing improper claims,” the statement said.

“We wish to make it clear that we will respond resolutely to any improper claims by Japan with regard to Dokdo,” it added. First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Se-young summoned Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Koji Tomita to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs complex to express a message of strong protest.

In a statement credited to spokesperson Han Sang-sin, the South Korean Ministry of Education said, “The textbooks that passed this latest approval whitewash Japan’s past imperialist aggressions and deliberately downplay and conceal the war crimes committed in the process, including the exploitation of forced labor mobilization and the Japanese military comfort women.”

By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent, and Kim So-youn, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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