Japanese History Texts Draw Fire from China and Korea

Evidently, the winners aren’t the only ones who write the history books. A recent decision by Japan’s Education Ministry to soft-pedal the country’s role in World War II in seven of its newest high-school history textbooks has sparked outrage on the other side of the Sea of Japan. The governments of North Korea, South Korea, and China claim the updated editions gloss over the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army between 1910 and 1945. “Japan’s renewed total denial of the history of aggression is an open mockery and challenge to its neighbors and the international community demanding justice and truth,” a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday. One especially sensitive topic is the Japanese military’s use of “comfort women”–captured Korean, Chinese, Dutch, and Philippine females who were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japanese troops. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe created a firestorm of controversy last month when he denied that there was any evidence linking Hideki Tojo’s World War II-government with sex slavery. Abe has since retracted his statement and expressed sympathy for the victims, most of whom were either Korean or Chinese. The new textbooks also whitewash Japan’s shoddy treatment of the residents of Okinawa during a battle that raged there in the spring of 1945. The Education Ministry has blotted out any suggestion that Japanese troops may have cajoled Okinawans to commit suicide in order to avoid capture by American forces. More than 140,000 civilians died during the battle.

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