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In the halls of ivy, flying fists evoke memories of 1960 uproar

Nov 30,2006
Fists swung and desks flew through the air at an academic conference hosted by a conservative civic group to discuss the draft of its new history textbook yesterday. Left-wing activists denounced the book as an attempt to “rewrite Korea’s modern history.”

At Seoul National University yesterday, members of a civic group scuffle with organizers of a symposium to discuss a new history textbook. [YONHAP]


TextForum, a group affiliated with the New Right Union, made the draft text public Wednesday. Yesterday’s symposium was to have included presentations on the history, which it said was an effort to combat “left-leaning” textbooks now in use.
The conference at a Seoul National University auditorium was peaceful during an opening presentation by Park Hyo-chong, an ethics education professor at the university and the head of TextForum. But as Rhee Young-hoon, an economist there, was about to begin his presentation, about 50 members of organizations who supported the 1960 popular uprising that ousted President Syngman Rhee entered the auditorium. One grabbed the economist by the throat, and the fight was on. Protesters threw desks, chairs and other objects around the room.
The 16 academics on the panel fought to keep their seats on the dias. Lew Young-ick, an international relations professor at Yonsei University; Heo Dong-hyeon, a history professor from Kyung Hee University; Mr. Rhee and others were dragged to the floor in the melee. Four of the organizers, including Mr. Heo and Mr. Rhee, sustained minor injuries.
Kang Jae-sik, head of the April 19 Revolution Foundation, complained, “The professors downplayed the revolution’s significance by calling it a mere student uprising, while calling the May 16 military coup a revolution.” May 16 was the date of Park Chung Hee’s coup d’etat in 1961.
Mr. Kang said the protesters acted out of rage, but added defiantly that the symposium should not have been held. The demonstrators left after 30 minutes, and the rattled academics called off the rest of the conference.
“It is shameful to see a situation like this,” a rumpled Mr. Heo said.


by Ser Myo-ja,Kwon Keun-young


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