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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Anger deepens in history book row
Demonstrators outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul
Demonstrators besieged the Japanese embassy
South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung has spoken of his shock at Japan's refusal to make changes to controversial new history books.

Both China and South Korea say the text books distort the reality of Japan's involvement in their countries during the 20th Century.

South Korean spokesman Park Joong-young quoted the president as saying: "It would not be of help to either South Korea or Japan for Japan to teach its people distorted history.

"The government will keep demanding that Japan corrects the problematic books because that is the only way the two countries can forget about the past and forge a forward-looking, co-operative relationship."

Bitter

The row is a personal setback for the president, who pledged to improve ties with rival Japan soon after taking office in 1998.

Many Koreans still harbour bitter feelings towards Japan, which occupied the country for 35 years.

South Korea and China have lodged diplomatic protests against the Japanese decision not to make major revisions to history books recently approved for use in Japanese schools.

"Comfort women"


It would not be of help to either South Korea or Japan for Japan to teach its people distorted history

South Korean presidential spokesman
Seoul had asked Tokyo in May to make 35 changes to eight books designed for use by 13 to 15-year-olds, saying they distorted the truth about Japan's occupation of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

It was particularly upset by the failure of those books to mention tens of thousands of Korean and other Asian women who were forced to serve as sex slaves - "comfort women" - for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Japan informed Seoul on Monday that it would revise only two of the 35 disputed passages.

A former
The textbooks fail to mention about 100,000 "comfort women"
The Japanese education ministry said in a statement: "Under the current textbook screening system, it is up to the authors to decide what historical facts to include in their books.

"We cannot force inclusions of certain points."

Seoul protests

The Japanese decision sparked protests on the streets of the South Korean capital outside the Japanese embassy.

A coalition of 80 civic groups, the Civilian Movement for Correcting Japanese Textbooks, has vowed to launch a campaign against Japanese goods.

South Korea's foreign ministry issued a statement expressing "deep disappointment and regret" over the Japanese decision and accusing Tokyo of "duplicity".

Protester defaces the Japanese flag
Protesters have defaced the Japanese flag
"In light of such an attitude on the part of the Japanese Government, we are compelled to question whether Japan values the ties of friendship and goodwill with neighbouring countries and is willing to play an active role for global peace and stability," the statement said.

South Korea has already cancelled this year's planned joint military exercise with Japan and is now reconsidering a schedule to open its market wider to Japanese cultural imports such as music and films.

Massacre

Beijing had asked for eight changes to the books, despite an earlier revision of one book that played down the scale of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, in which China says as many as 300,000 civilians were killed by Japanese troops.

A Chinese foreign ministry statement described Japan's decision as "unacceptable" and expressed "regrets and strong outrage".

"Historical textbooks should reflect historical truths, because only by doing this can we cultivate a correct historical viewpoint among the younger generation, and earnestly prevent historical tragedies from repeating themselves," it said.

Mr Koizumi sought to calm the row in an interview with Japanese media.


We need to move our focus onto things we can work on together

Junichiro Koizumi
Japanese Prime Minister
"Too much attention has been put on the antagonism (between Japan and South Korea)," he said. "We need to move our focus onto things we can work on together as we have to hold the (World Cup) football event with South Korea.

"We will continue making extensive efforts to improve our relations."

Mr Koizumi said Tokyo would seek further talks with Seoul and Beijing over the dispute, but indicated that there would be no more revisions.

Fishing dispute

Adding to the tension is a dispute stemming from Russia's decision to allow South Korean boats to fish from 15 July in waters around Russian-held islands that were seized from Japan at the end of World War II.

In meetings with the Japanese envoys, the South Korean foreign minister rejected Tokyo's request that South Korean boats refrain from fishing in the disputed area.

In retaliation, Japan has refused to permit 26 South Korean boats to fish in certain Japanese waters, in violation of an agreement reached earlier between the two countries.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Asia correspondent Matt Frei
"There is real anger"
The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Some would say the current government in Japan is on something of a collision course with its Asian neighbours"
See also:

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
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