May 31, 2005
When three old enemies sort of get together and publish privately . . .
by Dennis Johnson
Scholars from Korea, China and Japan have gotten together to publish a “joint history textbook” — an accomplishment that an unattributed commentary in the Korea Times notes is “little short of an historic event in itself.” As the commentary notes, “The participants deserve praise for their mutual compromise, necessary to help them overcome initial gaps in issues of how to divide historical periods and naming events. The Japanese historians in particular made difficult decisions in acknowledging forced laborers, including sex slaves during the Pacific War. They also admitted Japan’s invasion of other Asian countries decades ago.” Still, notes the anonymous commentator, there are problems with the effort. For one thing, it “might not have been possible if private citizens had not led the move.” Meanwhile, the Japanese government has “refused to reflect the outcome” of the group’s work in the country’s sanctioned history textbooks, “under the pretext of respecting the free will of publishers.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives