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A Japan-South Korea panel tasked with selecting members for and supporting the activities of a planned joint history research committee held its first meeting Monday afternoon in Tokyo.

The bilateral panel, comprising representatives from government and academia, will discuss the future agenda of the research committee, in particular its makeup and general timetable, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

The panel also aims to promote mutual understanding through exchange programs for scholars and experts, particularly in light of recent disputes over the interpretation of historical events.

The disputes have centered on Japanese school history textbooks, which critics say whitewash atrocities committed by Japan toward its Asian neighbors before and during World War II.

Tokyo’s representatives on the panel are Hitoshi Tanaka, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau; Soichiro Tanaka, director general for policy coordination at the education minister’s secretariat; and Susumu Inoue, councilor of the Cabinet Secretariat.

The South Korean government is represented by Chu Gyu Ho, head of the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry’s Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau; Choi Jong Man, director general of national security and foreign affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office; and Lee Young Man, chief of the school policy planning team at the Education and Human Resources Development Ministry.

The academic experts from Japan are Keio University professor Masao Okonogi; University of Tokyo professors Shinichi Kitaoka and Masayuki Yamauchi; and Tadashi Yamamoto, president of the Japan Center for International Exchange.

The South Korean historical specialists are Lee Song Mu, chairman of the National Institute of Korean History; Seoul National University professors Choi Byong Heon and Kim Jang Kwon; University of Seoul professor Chung Jae Jeong; and Yoo Byong Yong, professor at the Academy of Korean Studies.

The panel will discuss the selection of the 20-member committee, which will feature scholars and history experts.

Some panelists may double as members of the research committee, but there will be no government representatives.

Members of the research committee, which will be launched in the near future, are likely to meet about once every two months, the officials said. Both bodies are expected to function for at least two years.

The research is aimed at providing experts with an opportunity to share their interpretations of history so they can better understand how and why they differ, the officials said, adding the committee’s reports are unlikely to reflect unified interpretations.

The creation of the joint study committee follows an agreement reached by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in talks in Seoul in October.

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