Collective Memories of the Second World War in History Textbooks from China, Japan and South Korea


  • Yonghee Suh Old Dominion University


history education, history textbooks, the role of education, comparative study, curriculum research, grounded theory


Informed by recurring international controversies, this study explores representations of the Second World War as official history in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean secondary-level textbooks and theorizes about how they influence and function as collective memories about this time period.  Using grounded theory, it finds that the examined Japanese textbooks tend to present the Second World War in chronological order with a passive voice and avoid discussing why the war occurred and how it ended; the examined Chinese textbooks develop narratives in chronological order as well, but thematic units are structured to highlight the coalition of Mao’s Communist Party and the Chang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists as the decisive factor in the victory against Japanese imperialists contributing to the worldwide fight against fascism; the examined Korean textbooks tend toward a single, patriotic perspective of a people that overcame Japanese colonialism and developed as an independent nation, often ignoring issues that complicated relationships between the two nations.