April 11, 2013 12:35
The Japanese government is trying to erase references to Asian women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II from school textbooks.
Japanese Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told lawmakers on Wednesday there is a need to instill "pride" in Japan's history in schoolchildren and his ministry would look into measures to revise them.
Shimomura was responding to comments by Rep. Kyoko Nishikawa, who criticized references to the former sex slaves in textbooks.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also told lawmakers that school textbooks fail to "show respect and love for their country" and that it is imperative for educators to instill a sense of pride in young learners.
Abe added it is necessary to check if textbooks were chosen from this perspective.
The comments refer to some textbooks that describe the former sex slaves as having been mobilized by the Japanese military. Japan claims their enslavement was entirely a private enterprise.
During his election campaign, Abe said there is no evidence that the "comfort women" were mobilized by force and called for the revision of a 1993 statement which to some extent admitted the Japanese government's role in rounding up the women, whom Tokyo persists in calling by the euphemism "comfort women."
The general drift to the far right is also evident in other revisions. In 1982, Tokyo obliged school texts to include content that stress the need for Japan to respect neighboring countries. Abe wants to scrap the requirement and allow publishers to refer to Japan's World War II invasion of its Asian neighbors as "excursions."
The Japanese government put together a committee under the prime minister in January whose task is to reform textbooks and educational materials. It is staffed with stalwarts of the far right.
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