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Bilateral relations between Japan and Korea


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
In this new thread I would like to collect articles and views focusing on the relationship between Japan and Korea. I do not intend to reflect exclusively on governmental & political issues, but also on how contemporary Koreans and Japanese view each other. Are both countries' younger generations the key to social, culture and political rapprochement?
The most recent events around the publishing of controversial Japanese school textbooks prove how fragile mutual bonds between the two countries still are.

Please read the articles posted below.
ARTICLE: Debating ancient history in Japan's textbook

Taken from the Korea Herald:

Debating ancient history in Japan's textbook


The much-debated imperialistic views aside, the newly approved textbooks of Japan are also uniform in their self-centered view of Japan's ancient history to a degree that harms the very root of the historical integrity of Korea.
Disclosing the ultra-nationalistic view of their architect group, Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, also known as Tsukurukai, these textbooks argue that ancient Korean states basically had been tributary countries, if not vassal states.

Moreover, Tsukurukai, whose members are usually right-wing critics and scholars from non-history majors, as well as grass-roots amateur historians, accepts widely disputed theories as historical facts. They also claim that the southeastern spinster kingdom Kaya on the Peninsula was Japan's colony, called Mimana, for over 200 years until mid sixth century.

Ancient colony?

Out of their blind conviction in the originality of Japanese culture and history, Tsukurukai leaders went as far as to contend Japan is one of the four major centers of civilization in the world, on a par with Greece and China and have brought up issues related to ancient Korea.

Korean scholars like Prof. Lee Tae-jin of Seoul National University note that these self-styled explanations are deliberately included to glorify Japan's ancient history and rationalize their modern-day colonial rule of Korea.

The Mimana debate was first proposed by ultra-nationalist theorists such as Sayuyoshi Tsuda in the Meiji era (1868-1911) to provide a historical rationale for ruling Korea. Their argument was that Korea needed Japan's protection and guidance as a 20th-century colony.

Even without Tsukurukai's views, it is regarded an established theory in Japan that the country ruled Korea in ancient times as recorded in the two ancient texts, Kojiki (Record of Ancient Things) and Nihon-shoki (Chronicles of Japan).

In addition, its historical integrity is hardly disputed among the public who tend to value high the oldest official records of Japan, written in 712 and 720, respectively, regardless of revisionist views and scholastic works that work against them.

Nonetheless, the value of the two ancient records as primary sources is debatable.

Sir George Sansom, the author of the milestone work "Japan: A Short Cultural History," contends that "there are many signs of the deliberate selection and arrangement of myth and legend for dynastic as well as religious ends... these chronicles, in their early parts at least, are works compiled with a political aim, in which fact and fancy are combined in such as way to justify retrospectively the supremacy of the leading clans over other families or tribes."

The compilers of both Nihon-shoki and Kojiki conceive events in the legendary past as if they had taken place under cultural conditions as advanced as those of their own time, the British writer notes in the book.

For example, given that the term "nihon (Japan)" was not developed until the late sixth century, many accounts in the two texts use the later-day term to retroactively refer to previous institutions and figures.

In spite of the erroneous naming, historians cautiously agree that the existence of a Japanese presence in Kaya cannot be denied as some accounts appear in ancient Chinese sources.

Prof. Lee Young-shik of Inje University, argues that Mimana represented diplomatic delegates from Yamato, a prominent Japanese state at that time, and acted as a source of advanced foreign culture, not to control its ally, Kaya.

By examining the identity of the Yamato mission in Kaya, Prof. Lee concludes that the Yamato court selected its representatives from among the large group of immigrants from the closest foreign country, Kaya, who were well aware of the language and culture of Kaya.

On the part of the host nation, the perennial presence of the Japanese was necessary as a balancing force in its military contention against two big rivals, Silla and Paekche. In fact, the Japanese envoy sided with Kaya regardless of its own interests, usually when Kaya formed military alliances with Silla or Paekche, he said.

Furthermore, had Japan ruled Kaya for two centuries, at least a certain portion of archeological findings would have resembled Japanese artifacts.

However, the overall collection of Kaya relics seem to have continuously evolved from the Neolithic to Iron eras, while Japanese influence was contained to some isolated cases of Japanese relics such as crescent-shaped hand-held bronze ware and shell bangles.

On the other hand, many metal relics excavated in northwestern Japan where the Yamato state was based show striking similarities to Kaya items, supporting the historic allegation that Kaya was a major producer and exporter of iron ware in East Asia.

Therefore, it is infeasible that the fledgling Japanese state, where the iron civilization hardly took firm root, conquered a state located at the center of iron civilization and across the ocean.

Tributary country?

It appears true that Paekche sent to Japan certain types of envoys to offer "gifts" and skilled workmen after the late fifth century, headed by some of the most influential royal family members, including heirs-apparent.

As confirmed by both Korean and Japanese ancient records, the headman is referred to as a "captive," thus now serving as a source of debate among scholars from Korea and Japan over the nature of the mission that took place on six occasions.

Korean historians argue that Paekche's decision to develop a special tie with Japan should be understood in the historical context of the time when Paekche, like Kaya, was pinched to corners with the rapid advance of its rivals, Koguryo and Silla from the early sixth century on.

In this rivalry, each party attempted to combine with a second party and crush the third, a situation by which Japan endeavored to profit, historians say.

Moreover, in the fifth and sixth centuries, Japan was in the process of nation building in time with the rise of the Yamato state in its western archipelago and in dire need of advanced cultural inputs from outside.

Prof. Lee Do-hak at the Korean National University of Heritage contends that the Paekche-Japan alliance was more of symbiosis with Japan offering military assistance to Paekche, which in return provided them with the culture of an advanced civilization. Paekche's prince "hostages" may have served as close advisers to the Japanese emperor.

During the nation-building period of Japan, Paekche maintained the most influential and largest source of power in the Japanese court which welcomed foreign immigrants from more civilized countries.

An ancient Japanese document chronicles a total of 328 noble clans of foreign ancestry, among which 42 were of the Koguryo origin, nine of Silla, 10 of Kaya and 109 of China. A striking 158 clans claimed their heritage to be of Paekche, proving that the Korean kingdom maintained the most influential and largest source of power in the Japanese court.

This can be corroborated with the case of the Soga clan of Paekche, which married emperors and virtually ruled Japan for over three generations until they were toppled by ruling clans of other foreign heritage in 645.

In particular, Japan's ties with Paekche are more conspicuous and binding than those with other Korean kingdoms.

In 639, Japanese Emperor Jomei ordered the building of the state Buddhist temple, the first of its kind in Japanese history, giving it the name Great Paekche Temple, whose excavation work is now under way. Moreover, he built his official residence called Paekche Palace near the current Paekche River in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture.

As if many geographical names of Britain gave inspiration to those found in their former colonies of the United States, Australia and New Zealand, vestiges of Paekche in geographical names and proper nouns in western Japan are still abundant.

Offering a very simple but convincing clue to piece together the relationship between Korea and Japan in ancient times, the names of Korea's three ancient kingdoms are still widely found in geographical references in western Japan. Early Korean immigrants of prominence have been enshrined as local deities for over 1,400 years.

By Choe Yong-shik Staff reporter

Copyright ツゥ The Korea Herald
ARTICLE: Korea envoy recalled from Japan

Taken from BBC News, Monday, 9 April, 2001:

Korea envoy recalled from Japan

South Korea has recalled its ambassador to Japan in protest at Tokyo's approval of new school history textbooks which, according to Seoul, gloss over Japanese World War II atrocities.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-Taek said the ambassador, Choi Sang-Ryong, had been ordered to return home by Tuesday.

However, officials stressed that the recall was not indefinite. "The ambassador will stay at home temporarily to discuss the textbook issue," Mr Kim was quoted as saying by the French news agency.

Other measures

Last week, South Korea lodged an official protest with Japan over the books.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the texts included material "rationalising and glorifying Japan's past wrongdoings, based upon a self-centred interpretation of history."

South Koreans are particularly angered that there is no reference in the textbooks to Korean women being used by Japanese soldiers as sex slaves.

The books have also prompted protests from China, North Korea and Taiwan.

The government in Seoul says a number of other counter-measures are being considered, including postponing the further opening up of domestic markets to Japanese cultural items.

South Korea, which was occupied by Japan for 35 years, also plans to raise the issue in Geneva at a meeting of the United Nations human rights committee.

No more revisions

The original draft of the controversial textbook is reported to have described the "unopposed" annexation of the Korean peninsula as "necessary for Japan's security".

It also referred to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre - in which some 300,000 civilians were slaughtered - as "nothing like a holocaust".

The books were written by a group of nationalist historians, who argue that existing texts go too far to accommodate the views of Japan's former adversaries.

The revised version, approved by the Japanese Education Ministry last week, is reported to acknowledge that an "armed struggle" took place in the Korean peninsula, and to have removed the attempt to play down the Rape of Nanjing.

The ministry said that, in all, more than 130 revisions had been made to the text.

But the Japanese authorities are so far resisting pressure from their Asian neighbours for further revisions to the controversial textbooks.

Copyright ツゥ BBC News
Working Holiday Visa

We found this interesting article on Excite Japan.

Sankei Shinbun reported on May 17th, 2001 that - since South Korea and Japan have concluded an agreement to allow mutual working visa for Korean and Japanese citizens - the amount of Koreans applying for a one-year working visa is steadily increasing. The agreement stipulates that each year Korea and Japan accept one thousand applicants of the partner country who must be between 18 and 30 years of age. While the possibility of gathering professional experience in Japan attracted throngs of Koreans (prompting the South Korean government to ask for an increase of exchange workers), interest on the Japanese side has been very low: in the first year 45 people applied while in 2000 their number has risen to 287, still less than 30% of the envisaged quota.
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