The Mancunion

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South Korean state to take control of history textbooks

The South Korean government is planning a controversial change to how schools teach history

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The government of South Korea has announced that it will take control of the content of history textbooks for middle and high schools.

The current system, which allows for schools to choose what textbooks they will use from eight different publishing companies in schools, was only introduced in 2010.

Before this, South Koreans had almost 40 years of state-revised history textbooks in their schools put in place by authoritarian leader Park Chung-Hee.

By 2017 all history textbooks used in secondary school classrooms will be issued by the state of South Korea. It will be a single history textbook produced by a state-appointed committee aptly named ‘The Correct Textbook of History’.

The decision has not been received lightly, with many vicious attacks coming from both academics and opposition parties. Some are arguing that the President, Park Geun-Hye (Park Chung-Hee’s daughter) is trying to consolidate her father’s legacy with the move. In particular, Lee Joon-Sik, a research fellow at the Centre for Historical Truth and Justice, said: “The President is trying to extend ruling-party control and recover her father’s lost honour. To do that, she needs to control the students.”

However, not everyone is fighting in opposition to the plans. Kim Moo-Sung, the leader of the ruling Saenuri Party (New Frontier Party) said: “90 per cent of history scholars in our country are left-wing. There seems to be an intention to teach people’s revolution to the students.”

The Saenuri party have also said that the steps are vitally necessary in order to promote national unity and discourage schoolchildren from developing sympathy for North Korea.

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy has said this in a statement about the proposed change: “The Park government is trying to turn history books into government-controlled ones that glorify Japan and dictatorship.”

Education, and especially history has been a controversial topic in other Asian countries, with the most recent scandal regarding the inclusion of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands as part of mainland Japan in social studies lessons for junior high school students.