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Revisions flawed, say S. Koreans

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean civic groups on Tuesday criticized as "deceptive" a Japanese publisher's offer to revise a history textbook that many Asians say whitewashes Japan's wartime atrocities.

After weeks of protests from neighboring countries, the Japanese publisher, Fusosha, submitted the revisions of nine passages to Tokyo's Education Ministry for approval Monday.

The revisions did not address key demands by the South Korean government, which wanted the textbook to state that Japan's World War II army forced tens of thousands of women to work in brothels at the front lines, critics said.

The publisher also did not revise passages that described Japan's invasion of Asian countries euphemistically as an "advance" and downplayed the scale of the Nanjing massacre in China. Historians generally agree the Japanese army slaughtered at least 150,000 civilians during the 1937-38 occupation of the city, which was then known as Nanking.

"The revisions only deal with minor factual mistakes," said Chang Shin, secretary general of the Korean Citizens' Movement for Correcting Japanese Textbooks, a coalition of 83 civic groups.

"Japanese seem to have come up with the revisions as a face-saving measure. But we think the revisions are deceptive."

Japan approved the middle school textbook in April. It was written by nationalist scholars who deny Japan committed historically documented atrocities during World War II and say teaching youngsters about Japanese war crimes is "masochistic."

The controversy has strained relations between Japan and its neighbors, with South Korea and China issuing formal protests.

One of the publisher's proposed changes is a reference to Japan's 1910 conquest of Korea, Fusosha said. A passage that read, "Some Koreans voiced support for the annexation," was removed.

But South Koreans were not satisfied.

"We will continue to fight for fuller and more honest revisions," said Yang Mi-Kang, secretary general of a South Korean group supporting the former sex slaves' campaign to win apology and compensation from Tokyo.

Civic groups said they will step up a joint campaign with their Japanese counterparts to persuade schools not to use the textbook.

Officials at the South Korean Foreign Ministry said they would not comment until they hear directly from Tokyo on their demands that Japan revise 35 passages in the book.

The Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has refused to order revisions amid lobbying from conservatives in Japan not to give in to foreign pressure.