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Opposition urges Yoon to sack foreign policy heads over Japan textbook changes

By Kim Arin

Published : March 29, 2023 - 17:04

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Democratic Party of Korea head Rep. Lee Jae-myung speaks during a meeting Wednesday at the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap) Democratic Party of Korea head Rep. Lee Jae-myung speaks during a meeting Wednesday at the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s main opposition on Wednesday rallied for President Yoon Suk Yeol to fire his foreign policy chiefs over the controversial updates to Japanese textbooks unveiled the day before.

The Democratic Party of Korea blamed the “humiliating concessions” the president made in his recent summit in Tokyo for the revisions in Japan’s history education.

Japan’s Education Ministry announced Tuesday the new curriculum guidelines that touched on some of the historical disputes between the two countries. The curriculum would teach Dokdo -- the contested islets in the waters off the southwestern coast of South Korea -- as “inherent territories of Japan” while also downplaying its forced mobilization of South Korean labor during World War II.

Democratic Party chair Rep. Lee Jae-myung said in Wednesday’s party leadership meeting that the Japanese decision to revise its textbooks was “indicative of the country’s will not to recognize its wartime past that victimized millions of South Koreans.”

Lee argued that Japan claiming Dokdo its territory was “a flat denial of the illegality of colonial occupation.”

"Our government is also deeply at fault,” he went on.

“Making such boundless concessions signaled to Japan that they can do whatever they want. We offered them everything just to get stabbed in the back.”

Lee’s party on the same day submitted a request of a National Assembly investigation of the circumstances surrounding Yoon’s deal with Japan, claiming that it violated the laws here and the rights of wartime victims.

Rep. Park Sung-joon, the Democratic Party spokesperson, told reporters following the meeting that the party planned to press the Yoon administration to dismiss key officials in charge of Yoon’s foreign policies, namely Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin.

The Democratic Party will also be staging a protest outside the National Assembly to condemn the administration’s “failed Japan diplomacy.”

The ruling bloc also joined in on the criticism of Japan’s revisions of its textbooks.

Rep. Chung Woo-taik, the National Assembly deputy speaker and five-time lawmaker with the ruling People Power Party, called the changes to the education curriculum approved by the Japanese government “regressive” and “irresponsible.”

He said in a Wednesday statement that the curriculum would go against the “future-oriented agreement” reached in the Yoon-Kishida summit.

“Japan needs to undo these changes if they truly want the future generations of the two countries to get along,” he said.

Rep. Tae Yong-ho, on the People Power Party supreme council, said the latest move by Japan failed to correspond to Yoon’s determination to move bilateral relations forward.

“South Korea has done enough. Now the ball is in Japan’s court,” he said.

The Japanese Education Ministry’s Tuesday announcement of the curriculum guidelines builds on earlier changes.

In March last year, the ministry changed the guidelines for history textbooks used in high schools to abstain from associating the Japanese military with “comfort women,” women and girls of South Korean and other nationalities who were enslaved in brothels run by colonial Japan.