[Editorial] History Distortion|
Seoul Should Brace for Claims by Neighboring Countries
Korean history has come under serious threats. The nation
now faces a daunting challenge of defending its national history from
encroachment by two neighboring giants. Japan has persistently tried to
rationalize its colonial rule of Korea, and is even intensifying territorial
disputes over Tokto, a group of islets between the two countries. And the
increasingly powerful and nationalistic China is attempting to incorporate the
most important part of Korea¡¯s ancient history, the Koguryo Kingdom, into its
own. The Japanese education ministry is now examining the latest revision of a
``new¡¯¡¯ history textbook for middle school students. The textbook contains more
contents to gloss over Japan¡¯s wartime atrocities and justify its colonization
of Asian neighbors. Its 2001 version was adopted by less than 0.1 percent of
middle schools thanks to the opposition by conscientious Japanese intellectuals
and civic groups. Korea recalled its ambassador, froze private-sector exchanges
and put off the cultural market opening at the time.
This year, Japan¡¯s ultra-rightists appear determined to raise the adoption
ratio to 10 percent, with the support of some politicians. These politicians are
advised to exercise self-restraint. We also hope the Japanese government will
make bold corrections of descriptions that might deepen its neighbors¡¯ pains.
The promoters of the new textbook call for overcoming ``masochistic¡¯¡¯ historical
views but for most other Asian countries, Tokyo¡¯s official position is still
closer to ``sadistic.¡¯¡¯
Japan¡¯s denial of dark historical memories not only hurts the East Asian
cooperation but also hinders its own growth as a regional leader. Some Japanese
ask why they should keep apologizing: the answer is they have not apologized
genuinely even once. In contrast, Germany has made heartfelt apologies and
sufficient compensation to their former victims, obtained their forgiveness and
played a central role in Europe¡¯s integration. Japan, which copied the German
state model in the past, should follow this as well.
More seriously, Tokyo is now spreading its diplomatic propaganda across the
world, with considerable success. In a latest instance, France¡¯s ARTE TV marked
Tokto with the Japanese name of Takeshima and called it a territory of Japan.
The number of Internet Web sites that describe the islets in both names has
increased from 600 last July to 2,000. In another example of historical
distortion, Yahoo, the largest U.S. portal site, describes Pyongyang as a colony
of China for 2,000 years.
Something should be done quite urgently, or Korea will be regarded as a
tributary of China for thousands of years that was modernized thanks to the
Japanese colonialists. The government should act now to rectify widespread
historical distortions and international prejudices against the nation. It ought
to conduct more active propagation of our history and culture to the world. At
home, it needs to revive the national history as a compulsory subject at schools
and include it in all state exams.
(Korea Times 2005-3-6)