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Discovery of Disputes: Collective Memories on Textbooks and Japanese–South Korean Relations

From: Journal of Korean Studies
Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 2012
pp. 97-124 | 10.1353/jks.2012.0013



Historical perceptions in Northeast Asian countries, especially South Korea and Japan, can be observed through analysis of school history textbooks and the disputes related to these publications. Looking at this issue through a long-term lens it becomes apparent that today’s perceptions are direct descendants of the perceptions that appeared during the 1980s. This article shows that it is impossible to explain the escalation of the disputes through solely viewing the changes in descriptions of history in Japanese textbooks, but that interaction between China, Japan, and South Korea has been involved. South Korean society overlooked the Japanese textbook issue before the 1982 dispute. Thus it seems that only when China and some members of the Japanese populace first questioned the history being written and published in Japan that South Korea began questioning the changes being made to Japanese textbooks.