Write unbiased history textA new history book on modern and contemporary Korean history, published by Textbook Forum on March 22, has created controversy. The forum consists of conservative scholars and is one of the New Right activist groups. The book states that during the Japanese colonial period, “Economic progress was made and modern civilization was imported,” and the May 16, 1961 military coup led by then-general Park Chung Hee “was the beginning of the country’s modernization achieved within one generation.”
We think the historical view is significantly wrong. We believe the colonial occupation, when our nation was oppressed by guns and swords, cannot be considered the beginning of civilization and the dictatorship, which denied democracy and human rights, cannot be praised for its accomplishment of modernizing the country. This historical view is unbalanced.
The goal of education is to teach the universal values of freedom, democracy and human rights to students so that they can grow into mature citizens. The history book’s perspective is far from the goal. We can see the group’s lack of universal perspectives from the fact that none of the writers of the book majored either in Korean history or history in general. We have to pay attention to the reason, however, why these scholars wrote the book. They gathered because they wanted to correct biased perspectives of current history textbooks. Critics say some current history textbooks have pro-North Korean, left-leaning perspectives and even deny the legitimacy of South Korea. For instance, a textbook states that because the South Korean government was established, we failed to establish a unified government on the Korean Peninsula. While a textbook says the Saemaul Movement, a state-initiated campaign to improve the quality of rural life, was also used to legitimatize the late President Park’s authoritarian regime, it states that North Korea’s similar Chollima Movement played a big role in improving economic conditions of the communist country from the late 1950 to the early 1960s.
Textbook Forum published the history book to confront left-leaning perspectives but succeeded only in producing another biased historical perspective. There is only one solution. The academic community has to take the initiative and form a committee to publish a new history textbook. The textbook should be founded on the basic principles of the Constitution, which are freedom, democracy, human rights and a market economy.