The abduction of Japanese nationals to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States have been included for the first time in elementary school textbooks.
The books will be used in the 2005 academic year.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said Tuesday it also allowed elementary school textbooks to deviate from its academic guidelines.
Two of the five publishers putting out social studies textbooks for sixth-graders included the abductions, the education ministry said, disclosing the outcome of its annual textbook-screening process.
It said one of the texts had included misleading information, stating, “North Korea admitted that it abducted more than 10 Japanese nationals during the Japan-Pyongyang summit talk (in September 2002), which shocked the Japanese people.”
This gave the impression that the problem had already been solved, an education ministry official said. The publisher of the textbook added a sentence that the two nations are “making efforts to resolve the problem” and removed the number of Japanese abducted from the text.
North Korea has said it considers the abduction issue to be solved. Japan is meanwhile pushing for information on a number of other Japanese who are still missing, as well as abductees who Pyongyang has said have died.
Three of the publishers included the 9/11 terror attacks and subsequent wars on Afghanistan and Iraq in their social studies textbooks for sixth-graders.
One of these textbooks had said the U.S. judged the 9/11 attacks to be “politically motivated” and attacked Afghanistan and overthrew the Afghan government “that protected the terrorists” who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.
The ministry told the publisher to revise this section, saying it was difficult to understand what “politically motivated” means.
The passage now says the U.S. attacked Afghanistan, which had been a base for the terrorist group.
The ministry also allowed publishers to carry advanced content in elementary school textbooks for the first time since the academic guidelines were revised in 2001 to reduce learning content.
Four of the six mathematics textbooks for fifth-graders contain the formula to find the square of a trapezoid.
In the screening in fiscal 2000, publishers were told to omit the formula because it strayed from the guidelines.
Yasuho Arita, a teacher at Suginami No. 3 Elementary School in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, said it is difficult to teach advanced content as long as the class hours for subjects remain the same.
“It’s good to have advanced content that can teach students how interesting math is,” said Arita, whose specialty is math. “In reality, we need the class hours to let all students acquire a basic foundation.”
This year, the ministry approved all 147 elementary school textbooks on nine subjects.
Group expands brief
OSAKA — A group acting on behalf of Japanese nationals it claims may have been abducted to North Korea said Tuesday it will form a new organization Thursday to research a variety of nonabduction issues, including education.
The new group, dubbed the Strategic Information Research Center, will be led by Kazuhiro Araki, who currently heads the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea (COMJAN).
COMJAN works with police, politicians and government officials, providing information on Japanese who may have been abducted to North Korea.
“The new center will continue to support the activities of COMJAN but will also take a look at more long-range national security issues and social problems beyond the abduction issue,” Araki said. “We will gather and analyze information, and issue recommendations on these issues.”
These issues will probably include the security of Japan and its diplomacy, notably toward North Korea and China.
While Araki said the center will seek a variety of opinions on historical and educational issues. In the past, many members sided with groups that wanted to revise certain textbooks in order to whitewash Japanese atrocities in Asia during the war.