Japanese and South Korean historians have again failed to reach a consensus view on Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, notably its recruitment of Korean laborers and women, as well as the drafting of Koreans into the Japanese military.
The two countries’ second joint history study group issued a 2,200-page report Tuesday nearly three years after discussions got under way in June 2007. A report by the first study group was released in June 2005.
The joint team, comprising 17 scholars each from Japan and South Korea, conducted discussions in four subcommittees covering ancient, history, modern and contemporary history, and history textbooks. The history textbook panel was set up for the second round of discussions.
In talks by the textbook subcommittee, a Japanese historian argued that South Korea made efforts to keep Japanese imperialist thinking out of the country after the occupation ended and that this eventually became anti-Japan education.
A South Korean scholar expressed understanding of that argument, saying the Japanese historian’s view was an honest effort by the Japanese side to deepen understanding of South Korea. But the Korean scholar nevertheless rejected the argument that South Korea’s curriculum was anti-Japanese.
Also in the latest report, a Japanese historian argued that Japanese emperors and prime ministers expressed a sense of remorse or offered apologies Japan’s past misdeeds, but no South Korean history textbooks touch on this.
The Japanese side called for creating history textbooks that would teach students the neighboring country’s modern and contemporary history.
Another South Korean scholar took up Japan’s use of Korean laborers, the so-called comfort women, and the pressing of Koreans into Japanese military service under the theme of “recruitment of labor.”
The term “comfort women” refers to women, mainly from Korea, whom Japan sent to frontline brothels to provide sex for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.
The Korean scholar argued that Japan recruited labor from the Korean Peninsula “systematically and deceptively.” The Japanese side denied that contention, saying there were no systematic policies on the use of forced labor and comfort women during Japan’s rule over the Korean Peninsula.
On Japanese-language education in Korea during the colonial period, a Japanese historian said Japanese teachers did their best to teach Korean students and that Japanese was considered a tool to acquire modern knowledge and technology.
In response, a South Korean scholar said Japanese-language education was forced, terming the Japanese historian’s view “selfish.”
Japanese historians avoided mentioning the territorial dispute over the South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.
South Korean historians were critical of Japan’s claim to the islands and said it represents Japan’s ignorance of its wartime responsibilities.
The Japanese scholars regard the territorial dispute as beyond the scope of the history discussions because it is an issue between the two governments.
The joint panel was led by Yasushi Toriumi, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and Cho Kwang, a professor at Korea University’s College of Liberal Arts.
Japan and South Korea agreed to the joint historical study in 2001 as part of a bilateral project aimed at promoting mutual understanding and bridging gaps in historical perceptions between the two countries.
Relations at the time were chilled by a dispute over a Japanese history textbook for public schools that South Korea said whitewashed Japan’s wartime atrocities.
In the 2005 report by the first study panel, which comprised 11 historians from each side, South Korean historians stated Japan forced Korea to accept the Second Japan-Korea Agreement in 1905, which made Korea a Japanese protectorate, and the 1910 Annexation Treaty.
The South Koreans argued these pacts were invalid because procedures for their signing and ratification were lacking.
A Japanese scholar asserted that there was nothing in the treaties that would make them invalid under international law.
Japan established a similar joint historical study group with China. In late January, scholars from Japan and China issued a 549-page report covering ancient, medieval and modern history.