Thursday, August 26, 2004

History Textbooks in the News

Nanking? Comfort women? Never happened...

TOKYO, Aug. 26 The Chinese Xinhua News service reports that the Tokyo education board has decided to adopt a controversial history textbook for use in public secondary schools next spring. The textbook is "widely regarded as a whitewash and distortion of Japan's invasion history in the World War II." Xinhua states that the book's content includes the advocation of "worship to the empire by ushering in mythology and justifying Japan's aggression of Asian nations."

Japan, like the US, has its own history wars raging over rival interpretations of the nation's past. As is the case here, this struggle over the meaning of the national past is part of a political struggle for power and control over public policy and the national agenda.

The Korean press is also fuming over the textbook decision. The Chosun Ilbo online quotes Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Shin Bong-kil: "the textbook is based on a historical perspective of national chauvinism and justifies Japan's historic mistakes."

Japan Today: [The textbook] "has added fuel to a fierce domestic debate, and prompted an international chorus of criticism, mainly from China and South Korea, which argue that the nationalistic textbook glosses over Japan's wartime atrocities." The book has been approved for use in Hakuo High School, formerly a girls' school. Alumna Mutsuko Miki, the widow of a former Prime Minister, has urged the Tokyo education board not to adopt it. "The textbook, which does not even refer to the issue of 'comfort women,' is not appropriate to Hakuo which has been supported by women."

So-called "comfort women" were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during WWII--thousands of women from Korea and and other Asian countries were press-ganged into serving the Imperial agenda in front-line brothels. "Historians estimate a majority of about 200,000 such women were from the Korean Peninsula, which was then ruled by Japan." (Kyodo News)