SEOUL, March 29 (UPI) — Seoul on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Tokyo over new history textbooks that South Korean officials say distort facts about Japan’s use of forced labor and sex slavery against Koreans during World War II. world.
South Korea’s foreign ministry has expressed “deep regret” for the textbooks, which were approved by Japanese authorities on Tuesday for use by second and third year high school students from 2023.
The books “distort historical facts of the past in accordance with [Japan’s] self-centered view of history and call for correction,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
Phrases such as “forced labor” have been watered down to “conscription” or “mobilization”, South Korean officials have said, while references to so-called sex slave “comfort women” have been downplayed.
The ministry summoned a senior official from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to formally protest, Yonhap reported.
Protesters demonstrate near a statue of a South Korean ‘comfort woman’ outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea February 8, 2017. The ‘comfort women’ were Korean women who served as sex workers for Japanese soldiers during World War II. File photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Japan occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945, a period of colonization that ended with Tokyo’s defeat in World War II. Some historians estimate that up to 200,000 girls and women, mostly Koreans, were used as sex slaves by Japan in military brothels.
The issue of comfort women – the euphemism used to describe sex slaves – has long been a deeply contentious issue in relations between South Korea and Japan.
Tokyo argues the case was settled in a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries and a 2015 agreement that included an $8 million fund to support victims.
However, a South Korean government task force in 2017 declared the deal inadequate, saying it did not sufficiently take into account the views of the victims themselves. Lawsuits brought by survivors seeking redress in Japan have made their way to courts in Seoul with conflicting rulings handed down last year.
An international group of survivors and advocates sent a petition to United Nations human rights investigators earlier this month, calling for the issue of comfort women to be taken to the United Nations International Court of Justice.
Seoul also protested claims in school textbooks that the Dokdo Islands are Japanese territory that South Korea is illegally occupying.
The tiny islets, which Japan calls Takeshima, are administered by South Korea and have been the source of a long-running territorial dispute.