By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 30, 2006 9:57 AM
TOKYO March 30 -- The South Korean government Thursday sharply denounced Japan for "whitewashing, distorting and glorifying" its militarist past after Japanese officials ordered a series of controversial new changes to high school textbooks.
The unusually harsh protest centered on the disclosure this week that Japan's Education Ministry requested revisions to 55 textbooks in an effort to avoid student "misunderstandings." The revised books clearly label disputed territories-- including a small island chain under South Korean control but claimed by Japan -- as Japanese territory. Also, references to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre were changed to indicate the number of people killed by the Japanese may have been less than the 300,000 victims claimed by China.
Last year, China and South Korea blasted Japan for approving the distribution of one revisionist textbook written by nationalist scholars, which remains in very limited use. In contrast, the new textbooks are set to be widely distributed at high schools nationwide during the next school year.
In recent years, increasing allegations that the Japanese remain unrepentant for World War II-era crimes have soured Tokyo's relations with Seoul and Beijing.
The South Korean government additionally demanded that Japan immediately drop its claims to the disputed island chain -- known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese. South Korea "reaffirms it would sternly deal with the Dokdo issue in the context of protecting its own territory,'' the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.