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Group seeks to rewrite history

New conservative textbook offers praise for military regimes

Nov 29,2006
A new Korean history book to be issued by a conservative civic group of scholars praises the economic success of the country’s dictatorships and calls the 1961 military coup a “revolution,” according to a draft made public yesterday.
“Existing textbooks define the Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan administrations as dictatorships and treats them as if there were nothing to talk about,” said Seoul National University’s ethics education professor Park Hyo-chong, who heads the civic group, called TextForum. “But we believe that was the time that Korea laid the foundation to become the world’s 12th-largest economy, and democratization was able to take place on top of such economic growth.”
TextForum, a civic group under the New Right Union, was established early last year with the goal of changing what they called “left-leaning” middle and high school textbooks.
The civic group yesterday unveiled the draft of its high school modern history textbook, which explored major events that have occurred since the late 19th century. The civic group plans to publish the textbook next year, after listening to public opinion.
Regarding the criticism that the book was “right-leaning” rather than neutral and objective, he said the group will listen to all opinions.
Current textbooks called the takeover of the government on May 16, 1961 a military coup, and say it was a setback to the country’s democracy. The forum’s draft of the book, in contrast, called the event the “May 16 revolution,” and said it was an epoch-making opportunity for the nation’s economic development.
The forum’s textbook also described the subsequent changing of the Yusin Constitution in a different manner from existing textbooks. The constitution of 1963 barred a South Korean president from seeking a third consecutive term, but Park Chung Hee and his allies in the legislature amended the constitution to allow him to run for three consecutive terms. The presidency, based on the Yusin Constitution, has been called a “dictatorship,” but the new textbook described it as a system in which a president was guaranteed the chance for lifetime governance.
In describing the Korean War, the modern history textbook, published by Kumsung, said small armed conflicts had existed before the June 25, 1950 and they were expanded to a full-scale conflict. In contrast, the forum’s draft said the Korean War was North Korea’s attempt to invade and communize South Korea with the Soviet Union and China’s backing.
TextForum said it aims to obtain the Education Ministry’s approval by next year for use in classrooms.
The group said yesterday that it will hold a symposium on its new history text today at 1:30 p.m. at Seoul National University.


by Bae Young-dae, Kwon Keun-young


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