Unsettled Remains: Tensions over Unrepatriated Bodies from the Asia-Pacific War

The “remains issue” (ikotsu mondai) refers to controversies surrounding the bodily remains of Korean and Chinese nationals who died during the Asia-Pacific War in Japan and whose bodies have not yet been repatriated. Most were conscripts: soldiers, military personnel and forced labourers. After the War, the remains of Chinese forced labourers were largely repatriated to the bereaved families, but it is estimated that as many as two thousand Korean bodies may still be stored at temples and buried across the country. Continue reading

Tokdo/Takeshima Island Dispute: A Call for Educators to Act towards Mutual Understanding

Memo #184 – The tiny island that lies between Japan and Korea – Takeshima (竹島) in Japan and Tokdo (독도) in Korea – is at the centre of a territorial dispute and serious bilateral tension. This is nothing new. The island, along with other remnants of Japan’s colonial aggression in Korea, has sparked diplomatic issues throughout postwar history. Despite unprecedented levels of cultural, academic, and economic exchange between the two nations, the dispute continues to be defined by a persistent legacy of colonialism and growing nationalism. Japanese and Korean political leaders demand that educators legitimate territorial claims by including these in their national curricula. But if educators comply uncritically, we will undermine future generations’ development of mutual understanding and respect. Continue reading


Memo #184 (English translation available) – 日本と韓国の間に浮かぶ小島 ―日本側呼称は竹島、韓国側呼称は獨島(トクト)― を巡る領有権争いが、二国間に緊張関係をもたらしている。もちろん、この手の問題は何も目新しいことではなく、今件のような日本の過去の植民地政策の残滓は両国間の外交問題として戦後たびたび浮上してきた。今回の緊張関係に目新しい点があるとすれば、近年日韓の距離がとりわけ文化面において急速に縮まった中で、これが生じている点であろう。交流増加の一方で、依然として二国関係が過去の暴力の記憶と内向きなナショナリズムによって規定されていることを、今回の出来事は物語っている。領土問題が外交問題化するや否や、両国の政治家たちは挙って自己の領有権を正当化することを教育現場に指示した。だが教師たちがこの方針に無批判に従うならば、二国間の相互理解と尊重を将来の世代に育むという理想は更に遠のいてしまう。 Continue reading

독도/다케시마 영토 분쟁을 교육적 계기로 활용하자

Memo #184 (English translation available) – 최근 한일 양국 사이에 위치한 작은 섬 – 한국명 독도, 일본명 다케시마-을 둘러싸고 외교적 긴장 관계가 조성되고 있다. 물론 이와 같은 긴장관계가 조성된 것이 이번이 처음은 아니다. 일제의 한반도 강점은 독도 문제를 포함한 많은 식민주의의 상흔들을 한국에 남겼는데, 이런 상흔들은 전후 동아시아에서 발생한 여러 차례의 외교적 갈등의 도화선으로 작용하곤 했다. 최근 양국 사이에는 일찍이 두 나라가 경험해 보지 못한 수준의 경제적, 문화적 교류가 활발하게 진행되고 있었다. 하지만, 독도를 둘러싸고 벌어진 양국의 배타적인 민족주의의 발흥은 그 동안 이룩한 협력의 성과를 무색하게 하고 있다. 이런 상황 속에서 양국의 위정자들은 교육자들에게 독도에 대한 각국의 영유권 주장을 정당화하는 민족주의적 국가교육과정을 학생들에게 가르치도록 요구하고 있다. 만약 교육자들이 맹목적으로 이 요구를 수용한다면, 우리는 양국에 대한 상호 이해와 존중이라는 교육적으로 유의미한 가치를 다음 세대들에게 교육할 매우 귀중한 기회를 잃게 될 것이다. Continue reading

Japanese History Textbook Controversies: The Missing Link

Memo #144 – History textbook controversies in Japan (教科書問題) focus on “facts” about particular events and question specific phrasing and numbers. In the past, Chinese and South Korean governments have charged that Japanese government-screened history textbooks allegedly trivialized and/or justified past atrocities. Continue reading

65 Years After The Asia Pacific War: The End of History Politics?

Memo #15 – It is not that the contentious issues have been resolved, or that a general history lovefest has broken out across East Asia. But international exchanges over historical controversies have been toned down, especially between South Korea and Japan. The 65th anniversary of Japan’s surrender passed quietly on August 15th, 2010. The U.S. ambassador to Japan’s participation in the ceremony to commemorate the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th was the most commented-on element of the anniversary. Continue reading