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History Education and Reconciliation

Comparative Perspectives on East Asia

Edited By Unsuk Han, Takahiro Kondo, Biao Yang and Falk Pingel

The legacy of crimes committed during the Second World War in East Asia is still a stumbling block for reconciliation and trustful cultural relations between South Korea, China and Japan. The presentation of this issue in history school books is in the focus of a heated public and academic debate. This book written by historians and pedagogues from the three countries offers insight into the construction of historical narratives that are often nation-centered and foster exclusive identity patterns. However, the essays also reveal approaches to a more inclusive regional concept of East Asian history that puts the textbook debate into the wider framework of transitional justice.


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Han, Un-suk: Japanese Colonial Domination and the Second World War Politics of Remembrance in South Korea, 1945-2011


Han, Un-suk Japanese Colonial Domination and the Second World War Politics of Remembrance in South Korea, 1945-2011 Introduction The modern history of Korea reveals an extremely troubled past that includes events such as annexation by Japan in 1910 leading to 35 years of colonial rule, liberation on 15 August 1945 and the division of the country, the Korean War of 1950-1953, the 19 April Revolution of 1960, the military coup by General Park, Chung-Hee on 16 May 1961 and the rule of his juntas, the massacre of May 1980 in Kwangju, the June uprising of 1987 followed by gradual democratiza- tion, and finally a change of regime to the opposition in 1997. The ‘incomplete and unsuccessful coming to terms’ with the respective previous periods gave rise to new victims and new tasks of coming to terms with the past accumulated. Therefore, with the beginning of the democratization process at the end of the 1980s, Korea could be described as a ‘laboratory’ for coping with a difficult past. The enormous task of working through one’s own past in Korea can be categorized into the three following issues: – The pro-Japanese ‘traitors of the nation’ and the investigation of victims of the compulsory mobilization ordered by Japan after the Manchurian conflict. – The massacres of civilians during the Korean War. – The victims of political suppression under the military regime. In this article, I will focus on the first issue. It is impossible to understand the process of coming to terms with the past in...

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