Personally, I enjoy watching musicals. So, when there was a showing of Wicked a few years ago here in Korea, I was one of the many people who went to watch the show.
Yes, Gravity was certainly the highlight of the show and it was certainly exhilarating to watch Elphaba belt those high notes during the song’s climax. However, the song that I thought was rather under-appreciated was Wonderful, which was performed by the Wizard.
The part of the song that caught my attention was:
Where I come from, we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it history.
A man’s called a traitor or liberator.
A rich man’s a thief or philanthropist.
Is one a crusader or ruthless invader?
It’s all in which label is able to persist.
And that brings me to the History Textbook War that is being waged between Korea and Japan. The Japanese government seems to be doing all it can to whitewash its history regardless of how much it might offend its closest neighbors’ sensibilities. And it’s not like as though the Japanese are unaware of how its neighbors feel about it.
Of course, it’s not only the Japanese who are diving head first into the sea of historical revisionism. So are the Koreans.
With each side trying to make sure that history is taught “properly,” it appears that this rhetorical conflict will not end any time soon.
But is there really no solution? Are Korea and Japan forever destined to go through this series of sickening motions every time either country has an election coming up?
It doesn’t need to be so. I have a modest proposal. My proposal is for both countries to get their respective governments out of the business of authorizing text books altogether.
As Steven Denney said in the link that I provided earlier:
There is a fine but significant line between the history of a nation and nationalist histories. The former is more likely to be objective, the latter anything but.
Seeing how the only way this conflict will proceed is that both sides will get into a shouting match every time there is an election in either country, which, unfortunately also prevents both countries from doing other important things such as, oh I don’t know, having a summit between the leaders, the best way forward seems to be to allow individual publishing companies to publish their own history textbooks; as well as to allow individual teachers to select the textbooks that they think reflect the most accurate version of history.
No, it is not a perfect solution. There is no such thing as a perfect solution. There will always be those Japanese right-wing publishers that will claim that comfort women did not exist and that Dokdo is Japanese territory. There will always be Korean left-wing publishers that will claim that the only thing Park Chung-hee ever did was to torture his political opponents while accepting Japanese blood money. There will always be nutty teachers and parents who will think that an obviously biased interpretation of history is THE correct version of history. And the students will always be the ones who will suffer.
But it’s not like as though the current situation seems to be doing anything that much differently.
The difference is that by completely privatizing the publishing and distribution of textbooks, at least both governments will have that much less ammunition to attack each other with. And hopefully, the market will show that the number of people who actually have a life is greater than the number of those people who take to the streets with their effigies and banners denouncing the people in the other country as evil pigs.
If enough people in both Korea and Japan can agree with this opinion and tell their respective governments to can it, maybe, just maybe, both countries can move on to something else, like I don’t know, economic cooperation?