South Korea says new history textbooks in Japan ‘distorts facts’ about World War II sex slavery

japan textbook story
Image: Al Jazeera English
  • After Japan approved new history textbooks, South Korea made a formal complaint that the books distorted “historical facts” about forced labor and sexual slavery imposed on Koreans during World War II.
  • The textbooks were approved by Japanese authorities on Tuesday and will be studied by second and third-year high school students beginning 2023.
  • The South Korea Foreign Ministry stated that the textbooks downplay the severity of forced labor and sexual slavery against Koreans during WWII.
  • South Korea is also criticizing the textbooks for claiming that Koreans are illegally occupying the Dokdo Islands.

South Korea filed a complaint against Japan on Tuesday for approving history textbooks that officials say “distort historical facts” about sexual slavery and forced labor imposed on Koreans during World War II.

The new history textbooks were approved on Tuesday by Japanese authorities to be studied by second and third-year high school students beginning in 2023. 

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) wrote in a statement saying the government had “deep regrets” in regards to the distortion of historical facts presented in the textbooks. 

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According to Yonhap News Agency, the textbook changed the phrase “forced mobilization” to “mobilization” or “conscription” when referring to the forced labor that Koreans had gone through during WWII. 

According to the statement, the textbooks made “futile claims” about Japanese ownership of the Dokdo Islands, which Korea has previously protested

“We strongly protest the Japanese government’s approval of textbooks containing futile claims over Dokdo, which is our inherent territory historically, geographically and by international law, and clearly state that we cannot accept any Japanese claims on Dokdo,” MOFA spokesperson Choi Young-sam said in a statement. 

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MOFA also criticized the textbooks for downplaying the “violation of human rights of women in wartime as well as a violation of universal human rights.

They also demanded in their statement that Japan take responsibility by resolving the issues and showing sincere effort “based on the spirit of responsibility, apology and remorse expressed by the Japanese government itself in the Kono Statement in 1993 and the Korea-Japan Agreement on the Issue of ‘Comfort Women’ Victims in 2015.”

The issue of recognizing the history of sexual slavery imposed on Koreans by the Japanese during WWII has been an ongoing dispute between South Korea and Japan. Just this month, a 93-year-old survivor of sexual slavery, Lee Yong-soo, demanded that the United Nations take action against Japan by seeking a formal apology and acknowledgement of full responsibility. Lee and survivors from several other countries sent a petition to the UN asking that the matter be taken to the International Court of Justice.

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