History textbook that misdirects Japan: Akahata editorial, April 13, 2001

The Japanese government is facing sharp criticism from both inside and outside of the country following its approval of the school textbook authored by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform.

This has developed into a serious diplomatic problem, as the South Korean government recalled its ambassador to Japan. President Kim Dae Jung stated that the text falls far short of the mutual agreement in the 1998 South Korea-Japan Joint Declaration.

Japan broke its international promise

The Society's textbook puts Japan's colonization of Korea which started with the 1910 annexation in a favorable light.

This conflicts with the 1998 Japan-South Korea Joint Declaration in which Obuchi Keizo, prime minister at the time, expressed his "deep remorse and heartfelt apology" for the fact that "Japan caused, during a certain period in the past, tremendous damage and suffering to the people of South Korea through its colonial rule."

The Japanese government approval of such a textbook reneges on the promise it made to South Korea. This is why the South Korean president who signed the joint declaration calls into question the Japanese government's sincerity.

China's government has stated that the textbook issue deals a serious blow to the political foundations of China-Japan relations. These reactions show how the problem arising from this textbook has harmed the relationship between Japan and the rest of Asia.

Both China and South Korea from the outset have criticized the Society's textbook, and their top leaders have repeatedly requested the Japanese government to not approve it. It was clear that the approval of the textbook would cause a serious diplomatic problem.

In the 1982 textbook screening, the Education Ministry ordered history textbook authors to describe Japan's "war of aggression" against other Asian nations using the term "advance." Criticized by other Asian nations, the government in a chief cabinet secretary statement announced that the textbook screening criteria should take into account international understanding and be based on the spirit of harmony with the international community. The criteria were thus revised.

The problem with the Society's textbook is not that a part of its descriptions are wrong but that it was written and published for the purpose of propagating the glorification of Japan's war of aggression.

This is what the government has approved as a "history" textbook. Education and Science Minister Machimura Nobuhiko commented on it as being well-balanced and that its approval was reasonable. Ruling Komei Party Acting Representative Hamayotsu Toshiko said that the textbook has passed a strict screening. These remarks amount to approving the textbook which praises the Japanese war of aggression.

The present textbook issue will not only be a major obstacle to Japan's relations with the peoples of Asia. It will err the course for Japan to take, and this is serious.

In the past, when Japan colonized Korea, invaded Northeast China, and then waged an all-out war of aggression, education played a major role in not telling the truth and indoctrinating the people to despise other nations.

The textbook edited by the Society falsified historical facts by describing Japan's war of aggression as an act that "inspired Asian peoples to harbor a dream and have the courage to achieve their independence." Telling such lies to gloss over its own history of causing tremendous damage and suffering to other peoples should not be tolerated.

Reflecting on the wrongs of the war of aggression has been Japan's post-WWII principle. Japan was admitted into the international community because it accepted this principle.

This is why Japan many times had to state "deep remorse and apology" for its aggression and colonial rule, and state so clearly in intergovernmental documents.

Only one fact

Historical fact is one and has no variations. Fact does not vary, whether it is viewed by the aggressor or by the victim. History will not allow falsification to suit the falsifier's convenience.

The government's mistake of approving the textbook praising the war of aggression does not stop at drawing criticism from South Korea and China. The question seriously concerns how the people of Japan should live as a members of the international community in the 21st century.

The government must be held responsible for the mistake. Therefore, it should take the responsibility of making amends. (end)