[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]It’s our duty to know our history well

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[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]It’s our duty to know our history well

France 5, the public television network in France, produced and aired a 52-minute documentary titled “Japon, les ombres du passe (Japan: Shadows of the Past)” last month. It was also broadcast here by the Korean Educational Broadcasting Station.
The documentary noted that Japan imposed forced labor on Koreans during the Joseon colonial period in the early 20th century, exposed some Japanese nationalists’ efforts to distort history books and referred to the disputed East Sea islets as “Dokdo” with the Japanese name for the islets, “Takeshima,” in brackets.
The French documentary asserted that nationalism is resurgent in Japan. It was later been reported by the French daily newspaper Liberation that the Japanese Embassy in Paris tried in vain to stop the documentary from being shown on French television.
In Korea, however, such issues as the Japanese prime minister visiting the Yasukuni war shrine, efforts to distort historical facts and Japan’s territorial claim on Dokdo are generating continuing controversy.
We are currently facing various diplomatic problems not only with Japan but also with China over claims that portray ancient Korean kingdoms as Chinese provinces, and with American hegemonic foreign policies.
These problems have become popular subjects in the media, and have provided themes for television dramas, movies and documentaries. Many students may be familiar with these themes, but the few patriotic remarks they make on Internet chat boards makes one wonder, how much do they know about these problems?
It’s sad to say this, but it seems history is only of superficial or passing interest to young students these days.
For example, during the registration period at school, some 10 classes related to the Test of English for International Communication are full within a few minutes of opening registration.
In contrast, there may be only two or three history classes available. Those classes never fill up and anyone who wishes to join the class can register at any time because there is always enough room.
It’s the same in the library. While we have to wait a few weeks to borrow bestselling books or workbooks on Toiec, or on earning certifications, we can always easily borrow history books ― they are always available because most of us are not concerned about the subject. If you can’t take out history books, it just means the library does not have them.
Why would students, who pretend to know history well when problems become headlines in the newspapers, not have a deep interest in history?
The reason is obvious. Our society wants students to prepare for employment by scoring high on the Toiec, earning licenses and building credentials for careers ― not learning history.
As shown on France 5 television, Japanese militarism is resurrecting. Problems are brewing from China and America. If we are ignorant and uncritical of our own history, it can be easily distorted by other nations. It is necessary that we develop a sense of duty to understand and know our history well.

* The writer is a reporter for The Kwangwoon Annals, the English newspaper of Kwangwoon University.

by Han Yu-na
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