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The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"The revisionist historians provoked fury in China and Korea"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Court battle over Japan school books
South Korean protester
There have been angry protests in Seoul
Four members of South Korea's National Assembly have arrived Tokyo to apply for a court injunction banning the sale and production of controversial Japanese school history textbooks.

South Korea has been leading protests against the books, which Japan's neighbours say gloss over wartime atrocities.

The textbook issue has not only inflicted a deep shock on the minds of our people but also damaged an agreement... to clear up the past

South Korean Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo
On Tuesday, the row intensified when Seoul postponed joint military exercises scheduled for June after Tokyo turned down a renewed request for the texts to be revised.

Japan's ambassador had earlier been summoned to the South Korean foreign ministry, where he was presented with proposed changes to 35 passages in eight of the newly-approved books.

Emotions are running high in South Korea over the issue, where there are still bitter memories of Japan's 35-year occupation.

"The textbook issue has not only inflicted a deep shock on the minds of our people but also damaged an agreement... to clear up the past and forge a future-oriented relationship," said South Korea's Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo.

South Koreans protesters burn a Japanese flag
The issue has stirred up bitter memories in South Korea
Japan's new Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, however, insists changes are out of the question.

He said on Tuesday they been approved by the education ministry with modifications.

His senior officials have been stressing that revision would only be possible were there "clear mistakes" in the texts.

"But we need to take sincerely what the Republic of Korea says and study what steps we can take in the future, as there are differences in the perceptions of historians on both sides," Mr Koizumi said.

Tokyo argues that the history textbooks, approved by an independent education commission, do not represent its official views.

Contentious issues in textbooks
Dismiss Nanjing Massacre in China as "nothing like a holocaust"
Describe invasion of Korea as an annexation necessary for Japan's security
Claim Japanese rule prepared Asian countries for independence from European colonial masters
The row between the two countries, who are to co-host the World Cup finals next year, has emerged as a pressing problem for Mr Koizumi since he took office on 26 April.

Most of the disputed passages are contained in one history book written by a group of Japanese nationalist historians.

The book, like several others, omits any reference to the tens of thousands of women - most of them Korean - forced to serve as sex slaves for Japan's military.

Koreans were also barred from speaking their language and required to adopt Japanese names.

China and other Asian nations occupied by Japan in the first half of the 20th century have also condemned the books.

"Showing no respect for the truth, Japanese right-wing revisionists are consciously pushing Japan's young generation toward a kind of historical amnesia," said an editorial in Tuesday's state-run China Daily.

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See also:

09 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan and South Korea's troubled relations
05 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese history gets rewrite
04 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan stands firm on history book
03 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan textbook angers neighbours
31 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Attack on Japan ministry website
26 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Court rejects Korean wartime claim
29 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan overturns sex slave ruling
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