Relations between Seoul and Tokyo are expected to heat up further as Japan plans to announce newly approved textbooks for elementary schools this week carrying strengthened claims to the Korean islets of Dokdo.
All Japanese school textbooks are due to be screened and authorized every four years by the country’s education ministry. Most social studies textbooks for fifth grade refer to Dokdo as Japanese territory, but they are now likely to contain clearer, stronger statements in line with the Shinzo Abe administration’s policy, Seoul officials said.
In January, the Tokyo government revised its guidelines for middle- and high-school textbooks, requiring teachers to describe Takeshima ― the Japanese name for Dokdo ― as “indigenous Japanese territory.”
The unveiling scheduled for Friday could again trigger a diplomatic spat between Korea and Japan, despite U.S. efforts to bring about a thaw through a trilateral summit last week in The Hague.
President Park Geun-hye’s participation in the trilateral meeting marked her first formal contact with Abe since their inaugurations more than a year ago.
It was made possible due partly to apparently conciliatory gestures by the nationalist premier, such as his pledge to uphold Tokyo’s landmark 1993 apology for its mobilization of Korea women for frontline brothels and the postponement of the introduction of newly approved school textbooks.
After the announcement, Seoul is forecast to lodge a complaint and take other steps in response.
“If things go as expected, we will sternly respond to Japan’s use of such expressions as ‘Korea’s illegal occupation (of Dokdo)’ and ‘indigenous (Japanese) territory,’ while reinforcing systematic and consistent education on Dokdo at home,” an official at Seoul’s Education Ministry told The Korea Herald.
By Shin Hyon-hee and Yoon Min-sik