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2008年7月16日 (水)


2008/7/16 --The Asahi Shimbun, July 15(IHT/Asahi: July 16,2008)

EDITORIAL: Takeshima issue


South Korea has reacted with outrage to the education ministry's decision to refer to the disputed Takeshima islets as Japanese territory. It is the first such mention in the ministry's manual for junior high school teachers.



The Takeshima islets, called Tokto by South Koreans, lie in the Sea of Japan. The territorial dispute has been a persistent thorn in bilateral diplomacy.



On Monday, Seoul summoned the Japanese ambassador to South Korea and lodged a protest. In addition, a group of South Korean lawmakers flew by helicopter to Takeshima as a mark of protest against Tokyo.


(summon=呼び出す、召還する) (lodge=突き立てる)

For South Koreans, Takeshima is far more than just a territorial issue. It is a symbol of Japan's past colonial rule of the Korean people. The islands were incorporated into Japan's Shimane Prefecture in 1905. That same year, Japan divested Korea of its diplomatic rights in prelude to the annexation of the Korean Peninsula.


divest=はぎとる、権利を剥奪する) (prelude=~の前ぶれ、前兆)

"Tokto, our land" is a South Korean song taught to all children to inculcate patriotism. The issue of ownership is essential to South Korean nationalism.



Three years ago, the Shimane prefectural government created "Takeshima Day" by ordinance to commemorate the centenary of the islands' subsumption. South Korea's vehement protest is still fresh in many people's memories.



Mindful of the South Korean sentiment, the Japanese government was always careful to be circumspect about the Takeshima issue. This time, however, matters came to a head because of a combination of factors.



The education ministry's curriculum guidelines are revised every 10 years or so, along with the accompanying manual. 2008 was such a year.

Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party saw this as the perfect opportunity to insist that schools spend more time discussing the Takeshima issue, as well as the longstanding row with Russia over the Northern Territories.



In South Korea, the administration of President Lee Myung Bak was inaugurated in February. Given the fact that Japan cannot do without South Korea's cooperation in dealing with North Korea over the nuclear and abduction issues, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was careful not to get into a diplomatic fray with Seoul.



That explains Fukuda's decision not to delve into the Takeshima issue when revisions to the official curriculum guidelines were released in March. As a trade-off, however, he had no choice but to allow the Takeshima issue to be mentioned in the manual. This illustrates Fukuda's weak footing in his own party.



Lee has problems on the home front as well. South Koreans' anger with their government has exploded with the resumption of U.S. beef imports. The Lee administration cannot afford to come across as spineless at this critical juncture.


(spineless=骨のない、弱腰の) (juncture=時期、時点)

Nevertheless, everybody should calm down.


The manual issue amounts to nothing more than a rehash of the Japanese government's official stand on the Takeshima issue. In fact, existing textbooks from four publishers already contain passages on Takeshima. The great majority of Japanese citizens hope to maintain good bilateral ties. Tokyo should seize every opportunity to explain this fact clearly and patiently to Seoul.


We can appreciate South Korea's anger. But that said, it is also a fact that the manual states objectively that South Korea and Japan have always been at odds over Takeshima's ownership.


(be at odds over...=~に関して主張に相違がある)

Both sides should present their arguments, agree to disagree, and try to resolve the dispute calmly. That is the only way to go.


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 15(IHT/Asahi: July 16,2008)


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