New Japan-related controversies in South Korea
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 10, 2012
A controversy has erupted in South Korea regarding the certification of junior high school history textbooks to be adopted for use next year by a panel from the National Institute of Korean History.
The Institute’s panel asked the nine publishing companies submitting textbooks for certification to remove the term “sexual slavery” in regard to the wartime comfort women. They also recommended that the term “King of Japan” be replaced by Tenno, the Japanese term for the Emperor.
Jeong Jin-hu, a member of the National Assembly’s Education, Science, and Technology Committee, said he had obtained the recommended revisions and analyzed them. The certification process was completed on 31 August. Declared Mr. Jeong, who is unaffiliated with a party and a PR member:
“In contrast to President Lee’s sudden visit to Dokdo and reference to the “South Korean-Japan History War”, the institute has adopted a Japan-friendly stance in the history textbooks junior high school students use…I cannot understand why the term “sexual slavery” used by the government is being omitted from the books”.
The table shown in the above photograph is a request submitted to one of the publishers to amend their text containing the expression “military comfort women (sexual slaves)” in two places. The screening committee asked that they remove the words “sexual slaves”. The phrase was initially removed, according to the Korean report.
But the group who wrote the textbook said that leaving only the expression “comfort women” prevents the inclusion of language that the Japanese military at the time subjected the women to immoral violence. They objected to the revision, and pointed out that the term “sexual slavery” has already been accepted internationally.
The institute compromised with the textbook authors and allowed them to use the phrase “forced to live a daily life of sexual slavery”. Some people objected to this phrase, too:
“The behavior of the Institute’s committee recommending the removal of the phrase “sexual slavery”, which is officially used in history textbooks both internationally and in South Korea, is a grave error.”
One publishing company made the requested changes to the expression “King of Japan” in three locations of its textbook. Another was asked to remove the word “protective” in The Eulsa Protective Treaty of 1905 in five places.
This is fascinating for several reasons.
* Those who objected to the changes did not cite historical accuracy as the reason. One of their concerns was that they had gotten sources overseas to buy into the concept of sexual slavery. Removing that phrase from the textbook undercuts their position.
* There is now recognition that the “King of Japan” expression is a petty indulgence they can no longer afford, and is an obstacle to restoring normal Japan-Korean relations. (It seems to have first come into common use 15-20 years ago.)
* The National Institute of Korean History is no longer willing to support the charge of sexual slavery compelled by the Japanese military. The historians at the institute evidently think this charge cannot be justified.
* The phrase they compromised on is very similar to the phrase now used by one of the original Japanese comfort woman historians, Yoshimi Yoshiaki. Mr. Yoshimi first said he had evidence that the Japanese military forcibly abducted women. His evidence was shown to be nothing of the sort. He has now modified his position to say that social conditions at the time forced the women to sign up.
* Tracking the future career path of the people on the panel who recommended the change might be educational in itself.
* Mr. Jeung referred to the “South Korea-Japan History War”. Those are his exact words. His attitude speaks for itself.
* The report in South Korea was immediately translated into Japanese. It’s all over the Internet now. This could mean the eventual end for the Kono Declaration.
In short, the toothpaste is out of the tube.
Meanwhile, another controversy has emerged regarding the repair and restoration of National Treasure #1 in South Korea. That’s the Sungnyemun, one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul. It surrounded the city during the Joseon Dynasty, and dates from the 14th century.
People are complaining that the adhesives used in the restoration are Japanese products. Supervising the work is the Cultural Heritage Administration. They said the use of Japanese adhesives couldn’t be helped because they were of superior quality. Much of the gate was destroyed by fire in 2008, and the reconstruction work began in 2010. Japanese paint is also being used.
The agency said they would have preferred to use Korean products, but they were of inferior quality, and they could not “experiment” with a cultural treasure. The manufacturing process for traditional Korean adhesives was lost by 1980. A university professor tried to recreate it, but the agency said it was too weak.
This report is also on the Japanese Internet.