Japanese scholars slam Tokyo on history

A group of Japanese intellectuals on Tuesday rebutted their government's territorial claim to Dokdo and urged Japan to have a correct understanding of history.

During a press conference in Busan, they called on Shimane prefecture to rethink its annual observance of Takeshima (Dokdo in Japanese) Day, designated in 2005 to underline its sovereignty claim to the Dokdo islets in the East Sea.

"We perceive the Dokdo issue as a historical issue rather than a territorial one," said Kuboi Norimo, former history professor at Momoyama Gakuin University.

"Japan occupied Dokdo to lead the (1904-05) Russo-Japanese War more advantageously, and Tokyo has since recognised it as its territory. Regarding it as a territorial issue is like glorifying its invasion into Korea rather than repenting for it."

Four members of the group including Yoshihiro Kuroda, former professor at Shoin Women's University, Sakamoto Koishi, former professor at Kyushu International University and Buddhist priest Ichinohe Shoko joined the news conference.

Arriving here on Monday on the invitation of a Busan educational institute, they are to visit Dokdo on Wednesday for the first time as Japanese nationals.

Established last month, the group consisting of Japanese from academia, the religious sector and civil society has staged a series of rallies against the rightward political shift that has triggered concerns about the reemergence of Japan's past militarism.

The group also used the news conference to criticise provocative remarks by ultraconservative Japanese politicians including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that underlined their unwillingness to atone for the country's wartime aggression.

"The political leaders are using citizens politically to prolong their rule," the group said in a statement. "It is tantamount to returning to its past militarism, we will stage a civil society campaign to strongly protest it."

To back up their claim that Dokdo is Korea's territory, the group revealed a series of historical records and photographs. They included a copy of a Japanese map drawn in the 18th century.

"By next March, we will develop a secondary history textbook to correct the distorted parts of history in Japan's government textbooks," the group said.

The group also expressed concerns over Japanese politicians' moves to revise the country's 1947 pacifist constitution that bans it from waging war and possession of potential war materials.

Japan incorporated the islets as part of its territory in 1905 before colonizing the entire peninsula. Korea has been in effective control of them since its liberation in 1945. Along with the Dokdo row, Japan's failure to recognise and apologise for its wartime atrocities has soured its relationship with Korea and dampened the mood for regional cooperation for peace and prosperity.

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