Correcting facts about KoreaThe details about Korea in foreign textbooks include some serious errors. The Academy of Korean Studies released an analysis of 1,147 textbooks from 59 countries over the past six years. Nearly 590 errors were found.
We are at a loss to understand some of the misunderstandings. Korea is described as an undernourished country in Chile, an aid-recipient country in Britain, a colony of Portugal in Paraguay, and a country that uses the Chinese language in Argentina.
Because more than 19,900 textbooks from 199 countries worldwide include provisions about Korea, we think the errors discovered are only the tip of the iceberg. However, since there are only six people in charge of reviewing textbooks and correcting errors at the Academy of Korean Studies, they cannot possibly examine all of them.
The budget for the project has seen a steady decrease - from 1.24 billion won ($1.1 million) in 2008, to 850 million won in 2009 and finally to 720 million won for each of the following two years. And the budget faces further hurdles ahead. In a word, it seems that a little boat is floating lightly on the boundless ocean trying to detect contaminated fish. Things will not likely go smoothly.
Some textbook errors may be intentional, as shown in the cases of Japan and China, but most are likely caused because of old and wrong information. Therefore, there is a pressing need for our country to let those in other countries know the basic facts about Korea, including the country’s population, land size, history and culture.
We should take timely steps to send public relations magazines about Korea to overseas publishers, scholars and schools on a regular basis and upload them to the Web. We could also create lesson materials and distribute them to overseas schools. It is essential that we establish a system that enables the regular check of the details about Korea that are set to be published in foreign textbooks. To properly implement such measures, the government should be willing to spend some money and hire more personnel.
The private sector should join the effort. If Korean entrepreneurs, and Korean students and people in foreign countries are actively engaged in correcting misinformation about Korea, the government’s task will be lightened. Activities like the Voluntary Agency Network of Korea, a “private diplomatic delegation” striving to publicize Korea and make requests to correct textbook errors via the Internet, should be more widely encouraged.
The national image and brand will shine only if the correct image of Korea is accurately reflected in foreign textbooks.