(Asahi: February 20, 2015 – p. 3)
The Shimane prefectural government celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Takeshima Day on Feb. 22. The islands in the Sea of Japan, which have been claimed by both Japan and South Korea, are raising the question of how the territory issue should be taught at schools. With Tokyo and Seoul stepping up their territorial education initiatives, Shimane Prefecture is adopting an approach to foster mutual understanding among children.
Japan – Dialogue comes first before conflict
Yasuda Elementary School in Yasugi, Shimane, on Feb. 20 held a pilot class to deepen international understanding through the Takeshima issue. “How do you think we can solve the issue peacefully and build friendly ties?” Takashi Toyama [sp?] asked his 14 students in the sixth grade. The class was observed by about 30 teachers in the prefecture.
The students researched the subject before the class. They wrote down their thoughts on strips of paper and posted them on the blackboard. One strip said: “Takeshima is rich in natural resources and seafood but it is illegally controlled by South Korea.”
One student said: “We should tell the world South Korea is wrong.” Toyama asked, “What do you mean by wrong?” The pupil replied: “That is not true history.” The class led the students into the conclusion that “it is important to discuss and raise awareness before telling the world.”
“I want them to learn how they can solve the problem,” Toyama said.
The government last year stipulated Takeshima as an integral part of the Japanese territory in curriculum guidelines for middle schools and high schools. Starting this spring, the islands will be mentioned in all elementary school textbooks as well. The government is looking to step up territorial education and articulate its position in school textbooks.
Shimane has long worked to look for ways to foster personnel who can express their opinions without fanning unneeded tension.
Upon the establishment of Takeshima Day in 2005, the prefecture set up a public-run research institute to discover historical documents and to develop textbooks on the islands.
The local education board of Okinoshima, which administers Takeshima, introduced how South Korean history textbooks discuss the Takeshima issue in supplementary textbooks the municipality uses in elementary and middle schools starting this academic year.
“Unless we know how South Korean students study the Takeshima issue, we won’t be able to get across to them through dialogue, however hard we argue about historical facts,” said Takahiro Yoshida, an editor of the supplementary materials and vice principal at Saigo Junior High School in Okinoshima.
South Korea – Studying ‘Dokdo’ a compulsory subject
In the afternoon of Feb. 7, by a group of elementary school students toured the Dokdo Museum in Seoul. “Dokdo is only an hour and a half away from Ulleungdo,” a guide at the facility explained in front of the miniature model of the islands.
The guide also talked about a couple who has lived on the islands since 1991 and the flora and fauna there. “I did not know the islands are rich in nature,” said a fourth-grade boy after the tour. “I felt that we must study more about the natural environment and history of the islands to protect them,” said a girl.
The museum receives about 150 visitors a day on average. In South Korea, students from elementary school to high school must complete ten hours of Dokdo education a year. Visits to the museum are also counted.
The museum was founded by the government-affiliated Northeast Asian History Foundation in September 2012. It comprises two zones: The nature zone is designed to introduce the geography, climate and wildlife of the islands. The history and future zone showcases the islands’ 1,500 years of history to stress that the place is an inherent territory of South Korea.
The South Korean government in April outlined steps to strengthen education on Dokdo upon the inclusion of Takeshima in Japanese elementary school textbooks. It has developed new materials on the subject for elementary and junior and senior high schools and introduced training methods for teachers.
“We aim to foster the accurate understanding that Dokdo is our territory, which is our basic stance,” said Hong Seong-geun, director at the Dokdo Research Institute, a body under the Northeast Asian History Foundation.