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Japanese residents ...

Japanese residents ...  

Japanese residents here endorse Korea's anger over distorted history textbooks

While Koreans' outrage at Japan over the textbook controversy may be justified, they must take caution not to blame every Japanese person, as many of them feel just as indignant.

Many of the Japanese people living in Korea feel frustrated and angry over their government's recent authorization of eight history textbooks criticized for whitewashing or distorting significant parts of history involving neighboring Asian countries, including the two Koreas and China.

They noted that Japan is quick to point out misconceptions of their country in foreign textbooks and believe Japan should treat other countries the same way.

"This is simply not fair. Japan will be unable to avoid criticism for this action," said

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Mitsunori Fujisawa, a 41-yer-old Japanese teacher at a Seoul language institute.

"The Japanese have a lot to learn from the Germans in terms of recounting their history, which they do with honesty and sincerity," he added.

Fujisawa was quick to defend what he believes is the majority of Japanese people who want the truth to be told.

"I believe at least 60 percent of the people in Japan are unhappy with the way in which the Japanese textbooks have been written or edited. They would prefer their children to grow up learning the truth and taking responsibility for their country's past wrongdoings," he said.

Another Japanese language teacher in Seoul, Yutaka Shiomi, 39, echoed Fujisawa's thoughts.

"I have not been living in Japan for six years so I can't say for sure but from what I know, I think most Japanese people would be opposed to allowing schools to use the controversial textbooks," Shiomi said.

The blame for the controversy lies with the Japanese government, he said.

"Our government is not strong enough to exert influence on ultra-rightist scholars who write these books. It's because since the end of the Pacific War, the Japanese government has been made to keep a low profile to avoid being criticized as too powerful," Shiomi said.

Others linked the issue with Japan's economic recession.

"Ultra-rightist groups, such as the Society for History Textbook Reform, which authored the most controversial textbook of the eight in question, have recently gained popularity, in a way that exploits the economic downturn and the loss of confidence among people in their country," a 38 year-old Japanese professor at a Pusan university said.

"Normally, such textbooks would not have received public support in Japan," he added.

According to Korean officials, the textbook written by the Society for History Textbook Reform has omitted details regarding the 200,000 Korean, Philippine and other Asian women who were forced to provide sexual services for the Japanese Imperial Army in the early part of the 20th century.

The textbook also beautifies

Japan's expansionist policies and invasions, portraying Japan as a nation that fought westerners in the Russo-Japanese War and the Pacific War on behalf of other Asian countries.

The Pusan professor, who wished to remain anonymous, said the controversy has come at a bad time given that the two countries finally appeared set to build a more "future-oriented relationship." Since President Kim Dae-jung took office, Korea has lifted restrictions to Japan in its cultural market, while the two countries will also be co-hosting the World Cup finals next year.

"It is especially unwise for Japan to aggravate Asian countries in light of its aging society. Now more than ever, Japan is going to need the labor of young Korean and Chinese to build and sustain its growth," he said.

Many Japanese living here agreed that various anti-Japanese campaigns being waged by Korean civic groups are more than justified.

Since April 3, when the Japanese government authorized the eight textbooks, Korean civic groups have been waging a series of anti-Japanese campaigns.

The campaigns range from protests at the Japanese embassy to boycotts of Japanese products to holding special history classes at elementary and high schools.

Some Japanese here hoped that the controversy would not get in the way of their relations with Korean friends.

A 57-year-old housewife from Kawasaki living in Seoul regretted that the textbook controversy broke out just as she was just beginning to make Korean friends.

"I came here last August with my husband and we are now just beginning to make friends with Korean neighbors. They have been extremely kind to me, which has helped me settle down here, she said.

"I hope the textbook issue does not change the way they think of me," the woman, who asked not be identified, said.

By Kim Min-hee Staff reporter

2001년 04월 19일
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