New Japanese Textbooks Water down Descriptions of Wartime Forced Labor

  • By Choi Eun-kyung

    March 30, 2022 12:10

    Japan will remove the word "forced" from any reference to conscription or mobilization in support of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II from new high school textbooks to be introduced there next year.

    It is yet another bid by Japan to whitewash the island country's abysmal colonial and wartime history.

    The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said Tuesday it authorized 239 textbooks for second and third graders in high schools for 2023. Among them, 14 history textbooks have had some descriptions changed.

    A history textbook by Yamakawa Publishing, which is the most widely used in Japanese high schools, formerly described Koreans and Chinese people as having been "forced" by Imperial Japan to labor in coal mines and factories. In the new version, however, that has been changed to say that Koreans were "conscripted" into service, while Chinese were "taken" to Japan to work in factories. Similarly, in a textbook published by Jitkyo, the phrase "forced conscription" has been changed to "mobilization."

    The Japanese ministry demanded the revisions, claiming that the expressions used previously "are not based on the [Japanese] government's unified stance."

    Japan last year decreed that school textbooks are no longer to refer to the Imperial Army's sexual slaves and labor conscription as "military comfort women" and "forced labor conscription," but as "comfort women" and "labor conscription" instead.

    Also, more textbooks now assert Japanese territorial claims to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo. Previously, no world history books mentioned Dokdo, but now two of them refer to the islets as belonging to Japan.

    The Foreign Ministry here said in a statement, "Our government expresses regret over the changes made to Japan's history books that water down the fact that women were forced into sexual slavery and people were forcefully conscripted." The ministry also summoned Naoki Kumagai, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Korea, to lodge a complaint.

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