(ATTN: UPDATES with ministry's summoning of Japanese embassy official in 5th para)
SEOUL/TOKYO, March 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea lodged a strong protest against Japan on Tuesday over its new school textbooks apparently watering down the coercive nature of its wartime wrongdoings and intensifying its sovereignty claim to Dokdo.
Earlier in the day, Tokyo's education ministry announced the approval of the 149 textbooks for elementary school students for use in 2024, a move that came in spite of Seoul's efforts to improve its bilateral ties with the neighbor amid Washington's campaign for bolstering the trilateral security partnership.
In a statement, Lim Soo-suk, spokesperson for Seoul's foreign ministry, expressed "deep regrets" over the new textbooks and urged Tokyo to address the problem.
He called on Japan to show sincerity to fulfill the spirit of its previous apology over wartime wrongdoings.
The ministry called in Naoki Kumagai, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to deliver a formal protest message.
Yonhap News Agency analyzed relevant parts in a sample of those textbooks and found that a description of Japan's atrocities against Koreans during its 1910-45 colonization of the peninsula has been watered down.
For those who were forced to serve in Japan's military during World War II, a current textbook says Korean men were conscripted as soldiers. But a new version, endorsed by the ministry, describes them as "having participated in" the military. A caption of a related photo read that they applied to become soldiers, apparently backing Japan's longtime assertion that Koreans joined its imperial military "voluntarily."
Another textbook dropped the expression "conscription" itself.
On Dokdo, a set of Seoul-controlled rocky outcroppings in the East Sea, the textbooks say they are Tokyo's indigenous territory, with the world "illegal" added for what it claims to be South Korea's occupation.