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History being whitewashed again - and again
March 15, 2005
Japanese right-wing nationalists distorting history
Tensions are rising between Korea and Japan in a renewed row over distortions in a new Japanese history textbook that gloss over wartime atrocities by imperial Japan in the early 20th century.
The history book caused diplomatic friction between Japan and its neighbors, including Korea and China, in 2001, when its previous version was published.
The book, named "Fusosha textbook" after its publisher, Fuso Publishing Co., was authored by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, a group of right-wing nationalist scholars and politicians, for use in secondary schools in September.
Historians say that the new version's level of history distortion whitewashes Japan's wartime atrocities, describing the country as having "helped the modernization of Korea' with its 1910-1945 colonization, adding injury to insult. The book also suggests that it was the Korean people who wished to change their surnames to Japanese during the colonial rule, while failing to mention thousands of Korean and other Asian women forced by Japan to serve as sex slaves for its military.
Such distortions have caused severe ire among many Koreans, who still harbor deep resentment against Japan for its harsh colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. During the 36-year colonization, hundreds of thousands of young Korean men were forcibly conscripted to serve the Japanese military or taken to Japan as laborers, while many women were forced to serve as "comfort women,' or sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.
The followings are some of the cases of history distortions in the controversial textbook.
Japan helped Korea modernize
The 2005 version of the Fusosha textbook uses the word "modernization" (of Korea) four times in a brazen attempt to justify Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The book says, "Since Joseon opened its doors to the outside world, Japan has supported the military reforms of the Korean dynasty as part of its efforts toward the modernization of Joseon. It was vital to the security of Japan that Joseon developed into a modern state capable of self-defense without yielding to foreign domination."
The allegation describes Japan as freeing Joseon from China's domination and supported the dynasty's modernization, revealing Japan's attempt to define its role as a "liberator" in East Asia.
Emphasis on Japan's suffering inflicted by the U.S. forces
The textbook states, "The Tokyo Air Raid on March 10, 1945 cost 100,000 lives of Japanese citizens overnight. The U.S. armed forces landed on Okinawa and mainland Japan in April, and occupied Okinawa two months later after a battle in which 94,000 Japanese soldiers and another 94,000 civilians were killed."
But the book fails to explain that the Okinawa battle got prolonged, costing the lives of one fourth of the residents on the island because Japan attempted to earn time to prepare for a war on the mainland. In addition, the textbook does not mention that around 10,000 Koreans were forced to serve the Japanese military or provide labor on Okinawa and that many of them were killed.
The Russo-Japanese War was heroic
The textbook says, "With its national budget and armed forces 10 times greater than those of Japan, Russia reinforced its military presence in Manchuria and established a military base in the northern part of Joseon. It was evident that Russia's military in the Far East would grow so powerful that Japan could hardly match it. The victory by Japan, a burgeoning modern state and a country of non-white people, over the Caucasian empire of Russia instilled hopes of independence into colonized peoples."
But Russia dispatched security troops to lumber camps in northern Joseon, and it was Japan that defined them as a military base.
Forcible annexation of Joseon
"There were some voices within Korea accommodating Japan's annexation. The Bureau for the Governor-General endeavored to modernize Korea," the textbook reads.
The forcible nature of Japan's aggression and the process of annexation of Korea are covered up in this passage. The term annexation is used to describe an act carried out with international recognition.
The publisher of the textbook deleted the allegation voluntarily from the 2001 version but put it back on the latest edition.
Misrepresentation of the nature of Japan's colonial rule
In the revised version, the book contains a phrase, which states, "On the Joseon [Korean] Peninsula, the change of Korean surnames into Japanese ones was approved (by the Japanese government), and policies were carried out to Japanize the Korean people."
The earlier version depicted the name changes as forcible, but the new edition has omitted the description. Historians blame the phrase for suggesting that the Koreans had wanted the change of their surnames and earned the approval from the Japanese imperial government.
The latest version has also dropped the description of how young Korean men were forcibly conscripted for wartime labor and military service.
In addition, the 2005 textbook fails to mention "comfort women" who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.
Threats from Korea
The textbook states, "The Korean Peninsula protrude from the continent to Japan like an arm... If the Korean Peninsula came under control of Russia, it could be used as a base for an invasion of Japan."
But the statement was made by Japanese Foreign Minister Jutaro Komura in 1903, clearly showing Japan's imperialist view. The description of the remark as an objective political situation at that time is viewed as an attempt to justify Japan's invasion of Joseon as inevitable for its security.