Beijing Backs Off in Koguryo
China promised it would no
longer attempt to misrepresent the history of the ancient kingdom of Koguryo,
calling a halt to the first round of the ``history battle¡¯¡¯ between the two
nations which marked the 12th anniversary of diplomatic ties Tuesday.
Seoul and Beijing reached a five-point ``verbal understanding¡¯¡¯ toaddress the
bilateral dispute on kingdom of Koguryo (37 B.C.-A.D. 668), South Korea¡¯s
Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Ban Ki-moon said at the National Assembly.
``China well knows that the Koguryo issue has emerged as a serious problem
between the two nations,¡¯¡¯ he told lawmakers. ``Both sidesshare the view that
this historical issue should not undermine bilateral relations.¡¯¡¯The vaguely
worded ``understanding,¡¯¡¯ which Seoul officials said is still diplomatically
binding, was reached at the end of lengthy closed-door discussions between the
two countries¡¯ vice foreign ministers on Monday. While giving a background
briefing to reporters at Seoul¡¯s Foreign Ministry, a senior diplomat said that
although absent from the verbal understanding, China also pledged not to lay
claim to Koguryo in its history textbooks to be revised soon. ``China promised
that there would be no more government-level, central or provincial, attempts to
distort the history of Koguryo,¡¯¡¯ hesaid on condition of anonymity.
Beijing, however, did not accept Seoul¡¯s demand that it restore its
Ministry¡¯s Web site to its original state before the history dispute began.
In April, the Chinese ministry deleted references to Koguryo from its Web
pages on Korean history. This action, which followed a series of similar moves by
state-sponsored academic and media organizations, was interpreted by Seoul as an
apparent attempt by China to claimthe kingdom as part of its own history.
South Korea strongly demanded the references be restored, but China,
of complying with the call, removed the entire description of Korea¡¯s history up
until 1948, when the modern Republic of Korea was founded. China¡¯s latest action
came after it apparently recognized that it would not benefit from the history
dispute developing into a full political row. A rising business powerhouse,
Beijing might have fearedside effects, facing pressure from Washington, Tokyo
and Seoul, experts said. Just days ahead of the 12th anniversary of the
Seoul-Beijing relationship, China appointed Wu Dawei, former ambassador to
Korea, as its new vice foreign minister for Asian affairs, and dispatched him to
Seoul on Sunday. Wu¡¯s visit, ministry officials said, seemed to be aimed at
putting an end to the row ahead of a planned visit to South Korea by China¡¯s No.
4 leader, Jia Qinglin, on Thursday.
Despite yesterday¡¯s ``understanding,¡¯¡¯ however, the history battle doesn¡¯t
seem to have come to a close, as is likely to resurface in the future, experts
say. ``We can say the first round of the battle is over,¡¯¡¯ Prof. Park Doo-bok of
the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS) told The Korea
He said it was a productive result for Seoul to get a promise from Beijing
not to revise history textbooks in a way that distorts history, one of South
Korea¡¯s main concerns.
``But the problems related to China¡¯s Foreign Ministry¡¯s Web sitewere left
untouched,¡¯¡¯ he stressed, ``which means the history dispute has not been fully
resolved, but simply has been placed to one side for the moment. ¡¯¡¯The senior
diplomatic official, who gave the background briefing, also told reporters that
this should not be regarded as a full resolution.
``We consider this a first step,¡¯¡¯ he said. ``We will keep vigilant to ensure
that this understanding is honored and developed further.¡¯
By Ryu Jin
/ Staff Reporter
(Korea Times 2004-8-24)