The Japanese government again showed its true colors Friday by approving new elementary school textbooks that contained more assertive claims to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo than current ones.
Tokyo’s approval of the new textbooks is cause for deep concern as it means the Japanese government has started to teach young students with a distorted version of history, which could arouse hostility toward Korea and its people.
The Japanese Education Ministry has reviewed eight Grade 5-6 social studies textbooks. Of them, six reportedly state that “Takeshima belongs to Japan and is being illegally occupied by Korea,” while two others have maps marking the islets inside the Japanese maritime boundary. Takeshima is the Japanese name for Dokdo.
Four years ago, only one of the 10 textbooks approved for the same grades contained such an erroneous statement.
In January, the ministry revised the teaching guide books for junior high and high school students and instructed teachers to describe the Korea-controlled islets as integral parts of Japanese territory.
The teaching guides provide instructions for writing textbooks. As such, new textbooks for junior high and high school students will follow them in describing the islets. Current textbooks only refer to the two neighboring countries’ differences over the islets.
The Japanese government has been stepping up its sovereignty claim to Dokdo in school textbooks since 2008. In that year, it revised the teaching guideline for junior high school students, telling teachers to introduce the dispute over the islets to their students.
Now Japanese textbooks for elementary, middle and high schools all state that Takeshima belongs to Japan, accusing Korea of illegally occupying part of Japanese territory.
Japan’s education minister, Hakubun Shimomura, asserted that “it is only natural for a country to teach its children about its national territory correctly.”
There is nothing wrong about a country seeking to boost students’ awareness of national territory. But the problem with Japan is that it is drilling an erroneous idea about national territory into the heads of students.
Furthermore, the Japanese government is fueling hatred toward Korea and its people among young students. What kind of feelings would students get toward their neighboring country when they are taught that it is illegally occupying part of their territory?
The Japanese government’s policy is worrisome indeed, as it would harm the relationship between the two countries.
The main motive behind the Abe administration’s textbook policy is its desire to glorify Japan’s past. Abe seeks to project Japan as a “beautiful” country ― a country that can be proud of its traditions, culture and history.
Abe believes that this image of Japan can inspire patriotism among young Japanese people, driving them to work hard ― even die ― for their country.
But his beliefs are wrongheaded. Even if Japan admits to its wartime wrongdoings, that would not reduce young Japanese students’ love of their country. Have young Germans become less patriotic just because their country has acknowledged and apologized for the Holocaust? Instead of trying to glorify Japan’s wartime history, Abe should face up to history and ensure that students learn the true history of Japan.