Japan-S. Korea history group to hold 2nd round of talks in Jan

Japan-S. Korea history group to hold 2nd round of talks in Jan

TOKYO, Dec. 23 Kyodo

The government will consider having a Japanese and South Korean joint history study group hold their second round of talks from next January, government sources said Friday.

The study group will set up a subgroup on history textbooks in addition to continuing to discuss history issues in three subgroups — one on ancient history, another on medieval history and the third on modern and contemporary history.

The government wants the second round of talks to help improve Japan-South Korean ties that have been badly soured by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors convicted Class-A war criminals and the war dead, the sources said.

In October 2001, Japan and South Korea agreed to promote joint study of history by scholars to help improve bilateral ties after they reached a low point over a Japanese history textbook for public schools which Seoul said whitewashed Japan’s wartime atrocities.

Historians from both countries held the first round of discussions from May 2002. But they were sharply divided in their views on key historical events, including Japan’s 1910 annexation of the Korean Peninsula, as shown in a report the two nations compiled in June 2005 after three years of study.

The group is expected to deal with the issue of history textbooks in both countries at the second round of talks in addition to topics taken up by the three subgroups during the first round of talks, the sources said.

Historians from Japan and South Korea will analyze the common and different points of the history textbooks used in the two countries, as well as how historical events involving the two countries have been described in the textbooks, the sources said.

Japan was initially reluctant to have the group discuss the textbook issue, saying it could be taken as political intervention into editorial rights, but has agreed to deal with the matter apparently in an effort to improve bilateral ties, the sources said.

South Korea wants the outcome of the joint history research to be reflected in future Japanese history textbooks.

During their summit in June this year, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi agreed with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun that ideas shared by the study group on history textbooks would be taken into account in the process of creating the textbooks.

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