Fuso Publishing Inc. repeatedly violated textbook screening regulations by distributing drafts of texts to boards of education and teachers more than eight months before its textbooks were officially approved, the education ministry said Wednesday.

The textbooks published by Fuso have been criticized for glossing over Japan’s past colonial rule and military conquests and have drawn fierce protests from China and South Korea. The texts were approved Tuesday.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said Fuso began distributing the drafts to teachers and others concerned in late July “in order to gather opinions.” It was also learned that Fuso had loaned drafts to teachers in January.

Nobuyoshi Takashima, a professor at Ryukyu University, reported Fuso’s violation to the ministry in March. He said he had learned the drafts had been distributed to board of education members and school officials in Saitama, Tokyo, Kyoto and Wakayama prefectures since around November.

In March, Fuso declined comment on the allegations. It said the screenings were under way and claimed it had prohibited any promotional activities until the screenings were completed.

The ministry advised Fuso on three occasions — in October, January and March — to improve its management of unauthorized texts.

Education minister Nariaki Nakayama said: “It is a problem that the rules were violated. . . . I hope (Fuso) is aware (of the problem). The ministry can suspend the screenings if the leak of the drafts is deemed detrimental.”

Under textbook screening regulations, publishers and others involved in the process are supposed to ensure that the contents of drafts submitted for approval are not revealed to third parties.

Masami Zeniya, chief of the ministry’s Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau, said the ministry had ordered Fuso to recall the already-distributed drafts.

The junior high school history and civics studies textbooks are written by a group of nationalist academics — the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform — that claims other textbooks are “biased against Japan” and marked by “self-denigration” in their descriptions of Japan’s conduct before and during the war.

China and South Korea consider the revisionist textbooks as “distorting history” and “justifying and beautifying” Japan’s imperialist past.

Of the two revisionist textbooks released Tuesday, one was an update of a text approved in the previous round of screening in 2001. That textbook was adopted by less than 1 percent of the nation’s public schools.

The texts are also contentious in Japan, where groups have urged school principals and board of education members not to use them.

In Japan, all elementary to high schools are required to use textbooks approved by the education ministry. Boards of education and school principals determine which authorized texts are to be used in their schools.

Under the compulsory education system, all textbooks from elementary through junior high school are purchased by the government and provided to students for free.

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