A Japan-South Korea panel created to lay the groundwork for a planned joint history research committee will hold its first meeting April 15 in Tokyo, Foreign Ministry officials said Friday.

The panel will discuss its future agenda, focusing on the makeup and general timetable of the joint history research committee, the officials said.

The panel will be made up of three government officials from each country, along with four Japanese and five South Korean academic experts, they said.

Hitoshi Tanaka, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Chu Gyu Ho, head of the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry’s Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, are among the panelists.

In addition to making preparations for the committee, the panel will also work to promote mutual understanding through exchange programs for scholars and experts, particularly in light of bilateral disputes over differing interpretations of historical events.

The disputes have recently centered around Japanese school history textbooks, which have been criticized by South Korea and China as whitewashing Japan’s atrocities before and during World War II.

The panel will discuss the selection of the joint research committee’s 20 members, to be made up solely of scholars and history experts. The committee may be launched in April. Some panelists may double as members of the research committee, which will have no government representation.

The support panel will meet as necessary until the committee and other projects get up and running. Thereafter, it will meet once or twice a year, the officials said.

Research committee members are expected to meet bimonthly and come up with a report on their studies, the officials said. Both bodies are expected to function for about two years, which may be extended if needed.

The research is meant to provide experts from each country with a forum to share their interpretations of history, creating a better understanding of how and why they differ. The committee’s report is not expected to reflect a unified interpretation, the officials said.

The outcome, therefore, will not necessarily be reflected in Japanese textbooks, which are prepared by publishers and approved by the government’s screening system. In South Korea, the government compiles textbooks.

The move to prepare for the launch of the joint study follows an agreement reached by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung at their summit in Seoul in October.

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