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Seoul sends back ambassador after textbook protest

South Korean Ambassador Choi Sang Yong returned to Japan on Thursday and urged Foreign Minister Yohei Kono not to spoil bilateral relations, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Choi was recalled to Seoul on April 10 in a diplomatic protest over Japan’s approval of a series of contentious history textbooks.

Choi handed Kono a letter from South Korean Foreign Minister Han Seung Soo, which stresses the sour public sentiment in South Korea toward Japan’s approval of a junior high school history textbook written by a group of nationalist authors.

Choi said some parliamentarians even advocated scrapping a 1998 Japan-South Korea partnership declaration, under which Tokyo and Seoul agreed to put the past behind them and build on a future-oriented relationship.

The South Korean public has “a deep regret” over the textbook issue and is urging the government to take strong action against Japan, Choi reportedly told Kono at the Foreign Ministry.

Choi said Seoul will convey its position to Tokyo after South Korea’s expert team shortly concludes its examination of the contents of all the approved textbooks.

“I hope that Japan shows consideration and responds positively to the issue,” Choi was quoted as saying.

Kono reiterated Japan’s stance that textbooks do not reflect the government’s position but said he takes Choi’s explanation seriously and will try to resolve the issue in a positive manner, the official said.