Seoul to recall its envoy to Japan in textbook controversy

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The Independent Online
South Korea will recall its ambassador to Japan to protest a recently approved history textbook that it believes obscures World War II Japanese atrocities in Asia, the government said today.South Korea will recall its ambassador to Japan to protest a recently approved history textbook that it believes obscures World War II Japanese atrocities in Asia, the government said today.

South Korean Ambassador Choi Sang–ryong will return to Seoul on Tuesday for consultations with his home government on how South Korea should deal with the textbook issue, it said.

"The recall is temporary and will not continue for a lengthy period of time," Assistant Foreign Minister Lim Sung–joon told reporters.

The government has come under criticism for not taking a stronger stand in protesting the Japanese textbook that many South Koreans believe is a whitewash of Japan's colonial rule of the Korean peninsula in 1910–1945.

Civic groups have staged street demonstrations urging Japan to revise the controversial middle school textbook. The Japanese government has ruled out the possibility of a revision.

The Seoul government also plans to use a U.N. forum to ask for a revision of the textbook, the Foreign Ministry said.

Chung Ui–yong, Seoul's ambassador to U.N. offices in Geneva, Switzerland, was expected to take up the Japanese textbook issue in a speech at a U.N. Human Rights Committee meeting on Tuesday, said Oh Joong–taik, a Foreign Ministry official.

South Korean officials say the textbook, written by a group of Japanese nationalist professors, justifies Japan's invasion of Asia in the early 20th century and does not mention that Korean and other Asian women were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops.

Last week, Seoul lodged a complaint with Japan, saying the book's use could endanger their friendly relations.

The textbook dispute has rekindled anti–Japanese sentiment in South Korea. North Korea also protested the new Japanese textbook.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo had improved after President Kim Dae–jung visited Japan in 1998. At that time, Japan made its clearest apology yet for bringing "great suffering" on Koreans during the colonial years.

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