Translator's Note: This is an unauthorized translation of an article originally published in Nihon Keizai Shimbun on April 10 2002. Photographs and the author's notes have been redacted but the original page numbers have been retained for use in citations.
'Inappropriate' descriptions of Gaya and Yi Korea
Changes have been made relating to Korea
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology changed some of its opinions on historical descriptions that had became a source of diplomatic friction with South Korea last year. Concerning descriptions of Gaya (Mimana) and Yi Korea, the Ministry had rebuffed Korea's request for changes last year but now has laid down a new opinion.
Concerning the name of Korea, the Ministry argued that the statement "Yi Songkye... overthrew Goryeo and founded Yi Korea (the Yi Dynasty)" is "not appropriate". It was also indicated that the statement "Using Gaya as its base of operations, Japan went to Baekje's aid", which is tied into the alleged existence of an ancient Japanese colony in Gaya/Mimana, would "in view of scholarly opinions at this time... be misunderstood."
The Ministry stressed that "The request for changes that we received last year dealt with books that we had already approved. The situation is different this time as we are still in the screening process." Their position is that correcting textbooks that have been approved is restricted to cases where there are "unmistakable factual errors" and that making the corrections last year was legally impossible.
For this year's screening opinions, the Ministry's textbook division recognizes that the term "Yi Korea" is not a mistake, but they said that while scrutinizing their response to last year's request they learned that in recent years Korean history conferences have used the terms "Joseon Korea" and "Joseon Dynasty".
For "Gaya" they explained that "The existence of a permanent government office in Mimana has in recent years not been sustained. We cannot conclude that Gaya was a 'base of operations'."
Throughout the textbooks additional changes can be noted in descriptions of relations with Korea, such as the description that "Japan ceded four provinces of Mimana to Baekje", to which the Ministry responded, "If we don't assume that Japan controlled Mimana then the word 'cession' is not applicable."
By contrast, Japanese History B published by Meiseisha, which was the only of the 6 Japanese history textbooks to not mention the issue of the comfort women, was hit with more than 60 corrections centering around descriptions of modern relations with China and Korea including the 1910 annexation of Korea.
The textbook authorization process
Japan has a system in which the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology screens the books which have been written and edited by privately-owned textbooks companies and allows those that pass the inspection to be used in schools.
Firstly, textbook examiners survey the books seeking approval. Then the Textbook Survey for Authorization Council, the Ministry's advisory body composed of university professors, discuss the books based on the results of the examiners' investigation and in conformity with the national curriculum guidelines and textbook authorization criteria.
In the event that revisions to the text are necessary the Council issues a written opinion. The Council will re-screen the books after the revisions have been made and will issue a report with a pass or fail grade. The Ministry approves or turns down the books on the basis of the report.
South Korea still had concerns; corrections were not made
[Seoul - Kiyoyuki Uchiyama]
On the 9th the government of South Korea issued a statement concerning the results of Japan's screening process for high school history textbooks from the spokesman of the response team for relevant government agencies. He acknowledged that, "We can see improvement in some descriptions", but at the same time he expressed his concern that "Other parts include content that lacks a proper understanding of history."
The South Korean government views Meiseisha's textbook as especially problematic as it treats the problem of Takeshima (called Dokdo by Korea) where territorial rights are disputed between Japan and Korea, as being as the same as that of the Kuril Islands. Korea again notified the Japanese government of its position that "Dokdo is an intrinsic Korean territory". Still, Korea's policy is to not make specific requests for textbook revisions on this subject.