4,2 - Old Wounds, New Narratives Old Wounds, New Narratives...

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101 Old Wounds, New Narratives Joint History Textbook Writing and Peacebuilding in East Asia Z HENG W ANG Powerful collective memories—whether real or concocted— often lie at the root of conflicts, nationalism and cultural identities. In most societies, history textbooks are the “agents of memory” and function as a sort of “supreme historical court.” This article reviews initially how controversies over history textbooks have become sources of conflict in East Asia and then examines the activities of a trilateral his- tory textbook writing project between China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. It also aims to contribute to the theoretical discussion about why history textbooks are worth fighting over and how joint history textbook writing can be used as a means for peacebuilding. Over sixty years after the end of World War II, the ghosts of war still haunt Chinese–Japanese and South Korean–Japanese relations. Although more than three decades have passed since relations were normalized, the enmity of the past remains alive. Historical issues and the interpretation of the past have been the major barriers for a real reconciliation between these three countries. To a great extent, as Gerrit Gong points out, the memories of past conflicts have come to shape international relations in East Asia. 1 History education is no longer a domestic issue in East Asia. The 2005 massive anti-Japanese protests in China and Korea were a recent example of how history textbooks have become a source of conflict in this region. On April 5, 2005, the Japanese Education Ministry approved a new junior high school textbook titled Atarashii rekishi ky ō kasho (New history
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Zheng Wang 102 History & Memory, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2009) textbook) written by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. 2 This move ignited immediate outrage among some Asian countries, espe- cially in China and Korea. Critics have charged that this organization has been using history textbook revision to minimize Japan’s culpability for its wartime actions. 3 According to the critics, the textbook provides a dis- torted and self-serving account of Japan’s colonial and wartime activities, for example, in its description of the invasion of the Korean peninsula as an unopposed annexation, necessary for Japan’s security. 4 Two weeks after the textbook’s approval, anti-Japanese protests broke out in more than ten Chinese cities, during which protesters burned Japanese flags and carried banners demanding “Japan must apologize to China” and “Boycott Japa- nese goods.” 5 On April 9, 2005, an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Chinese demonstrators marched to the Japanese embassy in Beijing, throwing stones at the building. Outrage was also fierce in South Korea. In Seoul, two Koreans, Park Kyung-ja and Cho Seung-kyu, used weed clippers and a knife to chop off their fingers outside the Japanese embassy to protest Japan’s claims to a group of desolate islands that South Korea insists are in its territory. The new textbook emphasized the legitimacy of Japan’s
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This note was uploaded on 10/06/2009 for the course HIST 131405 taught by Professor Kate during the One '09 term at University of Melbourne.

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4,2 - Old Wounds, New Narratives Old Wounds, New Narratives...

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