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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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Shin, Ju-back: The Second World War in World History Textbooks of Korea, China, and Japan


Shin, Ju-back The Second World War in World History Textbooks of Korea, China, and Japan Introduction Controversies over history have been frequent in East Asia since the beginning of the 21st century despite active exchanges in economy and culture. They have triggered diplomatic conflicts and deepened animosity among East Asian people. Under the banner of globalization, Korea, Japan, and China have set goals to nurture their people to meet world standards, but they simultaneously compete with each other for an educational focus on nationalism. Therefore, the call to come to grips with history conflicts through history education in East Asia has never been more urgent. Analyzing the history textbooks of Korea, Ja- pan, and China in respect to World War II is part of the effort to deal with the issue. This analysis is limited to high school history textbooks that were in use in the three countries in 2008.1 To analyze and assess the textbooks, I have modi- fied the six principles for an international dialogue on textbooks as presented by UNESCO in 1949: Accuracy, Fairness, Comprehensiveness and Balance, World-mindedness, Worth, and International Cooperation. I have incorporated ‘International Cooperation’ and ‘Worth’ into ‘World-mindedness’ because both terms are ambiguous or overlap.2 Although only four principles are employed for this study, they represent acceptable values to the three countries and to the international community. Therefore, they will serve as an appropriate yardstick to evaluate history perceptions transcending boundaries. I have analyzed all three Korean textbooks series in use in 2008. Of...

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