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Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 14:24 GMT
Japanese history angers Koreans
Comfort woman campaigners protest in Washington
Former 'comfort women' experienced history first-hand
By Caroline Gluck in Seoul

Koreans have been marking the 82nd anniversary of the independence movement formed to fight against the Japanese occupation of their country.

But the anniversary is being overshadowed by a growing dispute over Japan's alleged distortion of its school history textbooks, which critics say justify its past wartime aggression against Asian countries.

Independence movement celebrations in Seoul
Koreans are proud of their heritage
The Japanese Education Ministry is expected to announce this month whether it will approve a controversial history book which was written by a group of right-wing academics.

In an anniversary address, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung called on Tokyo to adhere to what he called "a correct understanding of history", an oblique reference to the schoolbook dispute.

'Distorted facts'

Mr Kim urged Japan to continue efforts to develop relationships with his and other countries in the region to overcome the problems of the past.

On Wednesday, South Korea's National Assembly passed a resolution calling on Japan to review their history books and correct distorted facts that could damage relations between the two countries.

Protests against Japan's planned schoolbooks
These people want Japan's young people to study unbiased history
Earlier in the day, the Japanese ambassador to Seoul was summoned to a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and asked to convey Seoul's strong views on the issue.

Thousands of people took part in rallies in Seoul, accusing Japan of attempting to cover up wartime atrocities.

The controversial book says Asian nations benefited from wartime rule by Tokyo, preparing them for independence from western colonisers.

Cultural thaw

The protests underline the lingering bitterness in Korea over Japan's thirty-five year occupation of the country.

Three years ago, the two countries pledged to improve bilateral ties and enhance forward-looking relations.

FIFA emblem for the 2002 World Cup
Football is seen a way of bringing Japan and South Korea closer
Since then South Korea has gradually lifted decades-old bans on Japanese cultural imports such as films and pop music.

The two countries were controversially named the co-hosts of the 2002 Football World Cup. Football's governing body, FIFA, said at the time that sharing the event would help to boost ties between the nations.

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