[EDITORIALS]A Korean textbook gets an ‘F’At a hearing of the National Assembly it has been charged that some part of the modern history of Korea taught to junior and senior high school students as electives is anti-American and shows a friendly attitude towards the North. The textbook in question draws a somewhat negative picture of South Korea’s history after liberation from the Japanese, while North Korea’s history is described as being autonomous and undergoing rational change.
The problem with the textbook is that instead of explaining more about the Korean Liberation Army that fought for Korea’s independence, it explains in great detail about the socialist independence fighters. It does not mention Kim Il Sung, who started the war, when explaining the Korean War.
The textbook criticizes the long tenure of President Park Chung Hee, while, on the hereditary succession in the North, it writes simply that Kim Jong-il succeeded Kim Il Sung after his death. It also brands the Saemaeul Movement, a community movement aimed at improving society by President Park, as an excuse to justify his extended rule. But the Cheollima movement, the equivalent in the North, is hailed as having contributed much to the construction of a socialist economy. South Korea is viewed in a negative light while North Korea is introduced in a very friendly manner. This is not a very balanced approach.
A textbook educating a growing generation must be objective and neutral. It should not be too progressive nor conservative and it cannot force a certain viewpoint. Above all, controversial issues that are still being debated among history scholars should not be used in a textbook as a fact that has been proven. A textbook based on ideology can shake the identity of a country. Students that do not have their own historical view need to be taught history without ideology.
Textbooks imposing specific historical views, such as populist works that see history from the viewpoint of the oppressed, or revisionists’ works that call the U.S. responsible for the division of the peninsula, can’t be used as textbooks at schools. Such views are subjects for debate among scholars. Even among scholars, there are indications that the textbook could cause a misunderstanding by students studying the modern history of Korea. A committee should be formed in order to closely examine the wrong parts and request their correction.