Historians from South Korea, Japan to launch joint research project

Historians from South Korea and Japan will launch a joint research project next month to again try and narrow strongly differing views on the past that have often caused bitterness between the two countries, officials said Wednesday. Dozens of scholars from the two sides will study differing accounts of history, including Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea, under the government-sponsored joint history committee for two years beginning in March, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed last year to revive the panel for further research after its predecessor ended its three-year study without much progress.

The two countries set up the committee for the first time in 2002 after an intense diplomatic dispute the previous year over a Japanese history textbook accused of whitewashing Japan's wartime atrocities, such as sex slavery and forced labor.

A newer version of the text was approved last year, triggering mass protests in Seoul and riots in China, which also suffered at the hands of Japan's militarist aggression during the first half of the 20th century.

The first committee didn't deal directly with the textbook issue, but the new panel will do so after setting up a textbook subcommittee, the ministry said. However, the panel's influence is limited as textbook authors will decide whether to reflect the findings in their material.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have soured over the textbook and other history-related issues, including Koizumi's visits to a war shrine that critics say glosses over the country's imperialist past, reports the AP. I.L.

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