News

Japan Defends Textbook Revisions

Japan finds itself on the defensive diplomatically as a result of revisions made to two little-used middle school textbooks this week. Both South Korea and China are angry over the books, which they say plays down Japan's militaristic past.

The South Koreans and Chinese say the revisions to a history and a civics textbook whitewash Japan's brutal occupation of their countries and are meant to fuel Japanese nationalism. Both countries have long complained that Tokyo has never fully admitted, or apologized for, its militaristic expansion in the first half of the 20th century.

The two books were written by nationalist scholars and issued by a conservative publisher. Only a few schools in the country use them.

Nonetheless, there has been a strong reaction in China and South Korea. There have been calls for boycotts of Japanese products in China, and some Japanese businesses in the country have been attacked. In South Korea, the government and media have reacted vociferously, especially to references concerning a group of small islands in the Sea of Japan controlled by South Korea, which Japan also claims.

Lee Kyu-hyung, is a spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

Mr. Lee says his government regrets seeing that Japan has approved a textbook with what Seoul considers historical distortions.

Japanese Education Ministry officials say the textbooks' mention of the disputed islands is nothing new.

Japan's deputy chief cabinet secretary, Seiken Sugiura, is calling for calm on the issue in both South Korea and Japan.

Mr. Sugiura says Tokyo wants to pursue forward-looking friendly relations with its neighbors, especially South Korea.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also is urging South Korea to look at the big picture.

The prime minister says it would be a shame to see expanding exchanges in various fields shut down just because of the dispute over the islands.

The revisions also come as China and Japan have been exchanging angry words over the exploration for natural gas beneath the sea in an area both claim.

Some Japanese say the new textbooks are actually toned down from earlier editions. They note that the new text omits the tale of the mythical son of a legendary ancient Japanese emperor, which was in an earlier edition. The revised books also reduce or eliminate coverage of a number of topics that were seen as glorifying Japan's military ambitions during its imperial era.

The textbooks are getting mixed reviews even in Japan.

The country's largest newspaper, the conservative Yomiuri, says the publisher compromised in emotional meetings with Education Ministry bureaucrats.

The left-leaning Asahi newspaper, however, says the new texts are not appropriate for Japan's children. It notes the new editions retain justifications for Japan's early 20th Century behavior, portraying the country as liberating Asians from the grips of Western imperialists


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs