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PacNet #17 – Japan’s New Textbook and Security Relations with South Korea

After undergoing several rounds of partial revision, a new middle school textbook was approved by the Japanese government on April 3. Many in Korea – not to mention China – have been angered by the textbook’s perspective on the legitimacy of Japan’s colonization of Korea, the rationale for Japan’s expansion into China and Southeast Asia, comfort women, the Nanjing Massacre, etc. In the eyes of Koreans and Chinese, the textbook writers’ manipulation of history is not confined to the early part of the 20th century. According to the new textbook, from ancient times Japan was already a more civilized country than its neighbors and the Shilla and Baekje kingdoms even paid tribute to Japan, which is the opposite of what actually happened. The description of the Pacific War is also full of misinterpretations, such as it is Japan who was victimized through the horrible conflict, and it is the Japanese people who should be at the forefront of "pacifism" to keep other countries from experiencing future versions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Students learning from this textbook might be confused about the causes of and aggressors in the Second World War. Former comfort women expressed their outrage in front of the Japanese embassy. The Korean government announced that relations between Korea and Japan are under severe strain, and the mass media is urging Korea to reconsider the decision to open its cultural market to Japan.