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The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul
"The textbook controversy has strained ties"
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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"There is a mood of assertiveness"
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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Japan textbook angers neighbours
Rape of Nanjing
The authors claimed the Rape of Nanjing was "not a holocaust"
The Japanese authorities have approved a controversial school history textbook condemned by other Asian nations for allegedly glossing over Japanese atrocities during World War Two.

The education ministry said 137 changes to the text had been made after widespread protests from North and South Korea and China.

[The textbooks] still include contents rationalising and glorifying Japan's past wrongdoings based upon a self-centred interpretation of history

South Korean Government statement
But the South Korean Government has expressed its regret at the move and called an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday to debate what counter-measures to take.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary said the texts should not be considered to represent the views of the government, which had already apologised to Asian countries six years ago.

The book was written by a group of nationalistic historians who claim that existing texts go too far to accommodate the views of its former adversaries.

They argue that wartime rule from Tokyo benefited south-east Asian countries by preparing them for independence.

'Historic distortion'

The original draft of the controversial textbook is reported to have described the "unopposed" annexation of the Korean peninsula as "necessary for Japan's security".

Original draft: Contentious issues
Dismissed the Nanjing Massacre as "nothing like a holocaust"
Described the invasion of the Korean peninsula as an unopposed annexation, necessary for Japan's security
Alleged that Japan's wartime rule prepared Asian countries for independence from European colonial masters
It also referred to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre - in which some 300,000 civilians were killed - as "nothing like a holocaust".

The revised version is reported to acknowledge an "armed struggle" took place in the Korean peninsula, and to have excluded the attempt to play down the Rape of Nanjing.

But according to its critics, the book still glosses over other atrocities, such as the use of sex slaves or "comfort women", and distorts history.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry statement said the text included material "rationalising and glorifying Japan's past wrongdoings based upon a self-centred interpretation of history."


Seoul has warned Japan it will take measures in protest at the text's approval.

These could include the postponing the additional opening up of domestic cultural markets to Japan.

The controversy over the history book has strained ties between the two countries, which had been improving in recent years.

Protests against Japan's planned schoolbooks
Koreans have protested about a "distorted" version of history
Japan and South Korea are due to co-host next year's Football World Cup.

But the BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul says the textbook row threatens to undermine much of the goodwill this may generate.

She says there is still lingering bitterness in South Korea over Japan's 35-year occupation.

South Korean hackers - mainly university students - caused a Japanese education ministry website to crash over the weekend.

The protesters also targeted four other websites, including those of the publishers of the book and of Japan's governing Liberal Democratic Party.

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See also:

31 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Attack on Japan ministry website
26 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Court rejects Korean wartime claim
20 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Furore over Japan WWII remarks continues
15 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Korean protest at Japan history book
29 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan overturns sex slave ruling
08 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Sex slaves put Japan on trial
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