Textbook sanction negates truth of war
A test of nerves for the Asian countries colonized by Japan before and during World War II.
The Japanese education ministry yesterday sanctioned its textbooks. Among them is a new history book submitted by the right-wing History Textbook Reform Society.
Japanese middle school children can now be taught from a book that re-asserts the wartime ideology that Japan's invasions of China, the Korean Peninsula and Southeast Asia were justified acts of self-defence. Apparently, it assisted Asia's liberation from European and American domination.
The stated aim of the textbook's authors is to revive patriotism among the young by omitting from history lessons any reference to Japanese atrocities.
What they have done goes far beyond just hiding historical acts of brutality. They have confounded right and wrong in the building up of youthful pride in Japan and perpetrated a great evil by building a false self-image through fabrication and the glorification of historical fact.
The endorsement of the textbook is a clear indication of Japan's attitude towards the issue.
Simply put, it is unfit as a teaching tool. It negates both the truth about Japan's historical record and the values that will contribute to a just and peaceful Asian and global community.
In response to protests from East Asian countries, Japan has levelled blame at them for playing the "history card."
It cares nothing about the fact that this perennially contentious issue has been stoking the diplomatic temperature.
In 1982 the Japanese education ministry added a new authorization criterion to its screening process: that textbooks must show understanding and international harmony in their treatment of modern and contemporary historical events involving neighbouring Asian countries.
Such a consideration had obviously been put out to pasture before the ministry screened this history textbook from the right-wing organization.
It is Japan that has been playing the "history card." Its trick is simple: to delete or rewrite the darker parts of its history.
The History Textbook Reform Society's book asserts that the Japanese conquest of much of Southeast Asia during World War II "helped the Asian peoples who were dispirited before the whites to cultivate astonishing excitement and confidence."
The Asian peoples' "excitement and confidence" have not brewed appreciation but only anger about the lies.
Japan has chosen to ignore the protests from the Asian peoples whom it claimed it "liberated" in the 1930s and 40s.
Japan is driving its relations with its neighbours down a dead end.
The Republic of Korea (ROK) plans to rally support at a United Nations meeting in New York on April 11 to oppose Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council.
The ROK's Ambassador to the UN Kim San-hoon said that Japan was "not entitled" to the seat, adding that "a country that does not repent for its historical wrongdoings and does not have the trust of its neighbours cannot play a leadership role in international society."
Japan's handling of territorial disputes with its neighbours has sent its relations with these countries into a downward spiral.
Along with his suggestions of a "diplomatic war" with Japan, ROK President Roh Moo-hyun issued a statement on March 23 which warns that his nation must be prepared for a prolonged "fight" with economic and social implications.
Should this be taken as an expression of "excitement and confidence?"
Without a consensus on the history issue and other disputes, the Asian peoples cannot place their trust in Japan's desire to play a bigger role in world affairs.
The 2001 version of the history textbook ran into a brick wall. Nearly all of Japan's school districts rejected it.
We interpret this as the public's conscience.
Will Japan's conscience prevail this time around?
Who knows? But one thing is for sure, and that is a country's prestige is not built on subterfuge, but its acknowledgment of the past.
(China Daily 04/06/2005 page6)
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