'Truthful' account of a painful shared past

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 June, 2005, 12:00am

Team of Chinese, Japanese and Korean historians publish joint modern history

Two months after another flare-up in the on-going row over Japanese history textbooks, historians from China, Japan and South Korea yesterday released what they described as a combined 'truthful' version of the region's modern past.

The book, entitled The Modern History of Three Countries in East Asia, is the first effort of its kind undertaken by quasi or non-governmental bodies and was simultaneously published in the three countries.

It traces the history of each country from the 19th century until the present and includes sections on Japan's invasion of China and Korea.

The project was launched in 2002 in response to the publication of The New History Textbook by Japanese nationalist historians and scholars accused by China of 'whitewashing' their country's militaristic past.

More than 40 historians from the three countries joined forces to produce the tome so that their nations' youth could gain an understanding of 'historical truth'.

According to Professor Bu Ping , the co-ordinator of the Chinese editorial committee, there were no differences among the parties on essential issues, such as Japan's invasion of China and Korea.

For example, in dealing with the Nanking Massacre, all parties agreed that there had been a massacre but the book listed two estimates of the number of victims - one based on a Nanjing military court's tally of 340,000, and the other based on a Tokyo war crimes trial figure of 'more than 200,000'.

'Researchers need more time to study the figures but acknowledging the massacre is a matter of attitude,' Professor Bu said.

He also said it was inevitable that historians from the different countries would have different opinions on history.

'Communication is key to solving disagreement among different countries, and the basis of that communication is historical fact. Jointly compiling a history book is an effort to promote a historical consensus,' Professor Bu said.

Each version had an initial print run of 20,000 copies and the Japanese publisher is running off an additional 15,000 copies.

The South Korean version will be reprinted next month and mainland publisher Social Sciences Academic Press said the 20,000 copies of the Chinese-language text had all been reserved.

Umeda Masaki, president of the publisher, Koubunken, said his staff was working hard to fill orders for the book. But he also said the book was unlikely to become a school text in Japan due to strict government regulations.

South Korean representative Professor Yoon Hwy-tak said his government was very supportive of the book and was arranging for it to be donated to schools.

In early April, Japan approved a new edition of a textbook backed by nationalist historians, prompting strong protests from China and South Korea.



'A large number of fatalities and casualties among Chinese soldiers and civilians were caused by the Japanese military.'

- The New History Textbook

'The Nanking war crimes court ruled that more than 190,000 people were slaughtered collectively and ruined by the Japanese military, and 150,000 people were individually slaughtered ...'

- The Modern History of Three Countries in East Asia



The regional invasions were carried out 'in order to secure resources'.

- The New History Textbook

'Japan took it for granted that it would invade and rule Asia, and brought huge suffering and disaster to Asian people.'

- The Modern History of Three Countries in East Asia


The term 'comfort women' does not appear. Instead, 'young women from Korea and other parts of Asia were ... sent to the battlefield for Japanese soldiers'.

- The New History Textbook

'[The] 'comfort houses' system was a collective crime by the Japanese government and military. Comfort women were forced to provide sex services for the Japanese military.'

- The Modern History of Three Countries in East Asia


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