Japan-South Korea history panel may meet in January

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The Japanese government is considering convening a second meeting of a joint Japanese-South Korean history study group in January, government sources said Friday.

The panel will set up a smaller group to examine the issue of history textbooks, in addition to its three current subgroups: one dealing with ancient history, another on medieval history and a third on contemporary history.

The government hopes the new round of talks will improve ties between the two countries, the sources said. Those ties have been badly strained by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors convicted Class-A war criminals as well as the war dead, and by revisionist Japanese history texts that critics say whitewash the nation's wartime atrocities.

In October 2001, the two sides agreed to set up the joint study after a row over the history textbooks, which were penned by nationalists.

Historians from the two countries held a first round of discussions starting in May 2002 but were sharply divided on key historical events, including Japan's 1910 annexation of the Korean Peninsula, as shown in a report compiled by the panel in June.

The group is expected to deal with the issue of history textbooks in both countries at the second round of talks, in addition to topics taken up by the three subgroups during the first round, the sources said.

The scholars will analyze common and divergent points in the two countries' history, as well as how historical events involving the two countries are described.

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