Lawmakers incensed by ‘liberal democracy’ in textsAn ideological firefight broke out in the National Assembly’s Education, Science and Technology Committee yesterday over the use of “liberal democracy” in high school history textbooks to describe the country’s founding principle.
The feud was sparked by last month’s decision by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to use “liberal democracy” instead of “democracy” in all textbooks starting next year. The announcement sparked a group of historians tasked with reviewing the country’s textbooks to resign en masse Tuesday in protest.
Currently, five of the six history textbooks used in the nation’s high schools state that South Korea was founded on the basis of “democracy,” with just one using “liberal democracy.” Until 2003, all history textbooks used “liberal democracy,” but during the Kim Dae-jung administration, two textbooks switched to “democracy.”
The nine historians who quit, hired to be textbook advisers by the Education Ministry, said that “liberal democracy” was a loaded term in the country, having been used as an anti-communism, pro-free-market slogan. They also said that the term emphasized the separation of the two Koreas as well as excessive market competition among individuals.
Using “liberal democracy” to describe the country’s founding principle, they further said, could help rationalize the dictatorships of Syngman Rhee, the nation’s first president who adopted the term from the United States, and Park Chung Hee, who used the term in his autocratic Yushin Constitution in 1972.
The historians also said using the term ignored the socialists and communists who fought for Korea’s independence from Japanese rule.
At yesterday’s committee meeting in the National Assembly, opposition lawmakers sided with the historians and were incensed by a comment made by Grand National Party Representative Park Young-ah, who said, “If you resist liberal democracy, go to North Korea and be their representative.”
Democratic Party Representative Kim Young-jin responded in kind: “Park’s criticism is a new kind of McCarthyism. We were trying to point out that the Education Ministry made the decision without any agreement from the historians.”
Another DP lawmaker, Kim Yoo-jung, demanded an apology from Park, saying, “Park made the issue an ideological debate.”
Representative Kwon Young-gil of the left-wing Democratic Labor Party said, “The concept of a liberal democracy in Korea is being used as a conservative term, especially as a slogan for a specific political party.”
But GNP lawmakers stood their ground on using “liberal democracy.”
“Democracy has various kinds of forms,” said GNP Representative Kwon Young-jin. “North Korea also calls itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As our nation operates on the basis of liberal democracy, it is right to use the term.”
GNP Representative Kim Seon-dong said, “The Constitution mentions liberal democracy. We shouldn’t make a mistake by damaging our liberal democratic identity.”
“Liberal democracy” appears twice in the Constitution - in the Preamble and Chapter 1, Article IV.
Representative Park Young-ah, the GNP lawmaker who angered opposition lawmakers, said, “It is reality that two different ideologies - liberal democracy and people’s democracy - are in conflict on the divided Korean Peninsula. So it is not sufficient to just say ‘democracy’ to explain the identity of South Korea.”
GNP Chairman Hong Joon-pyo also stood his ground, telling his caucus yesterday, “The historians and DP members against the ministry’s decision to use liberal democracy are directly opposing the Constitution.”
The committee meeting was adjourned after about 70 minutes of argument. The Democratic Party told reporters yesterday that they would not resume the meeting with GNP members unless Park apologized for her remark.
By Kim Hee-jin [email@example.com]
한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
“자유민주주의 부정 국회의원은 북한 가라” 박영아 교과서 발언… 교과위 1시간 파행
김영진 “홍준표가 사과하라”
22일 국회 교육과학기술위원회 국정감사가 이념논쟁에 휘말려 한 시간여 만에 정회하는 등 파행 운영됐다. 19일 교육과학기술부 감사 당시 한나라당 박영아 의원이 “자유민주주의를 부정하는 국회의원이 있다면 북한에 가서 국회의원 하라”고 한 발언이 문제가 됐다.
민주당 간사인 안민석 의원은 “자기 생각과 맞지 않는다고 동료 의원 보고 북한으로 가라고 해서야 되겠느냐”면서 “(박 의원이) 사과할 때까지 국감을 할 수 없다”며 정회를 요청했다. 안 의원은 “이번 논란의 핵심은 박 의원뿐 아니라 교과위 야당 의원 전체를 문제 삼은 홍준표 대표”라며 “홍 대표가 사과하지 않으면 시교육청 국감은 진행할 수 없다”고 밝혔다. 같은 당 김영진 의원도 “홍 대표의 사과가 우선돼야만 국감이 계속될 것”이라고 주장했다.
이에 한나라당 김선동 의원 등은 “역사 교과서의 용어를 ‘민주주의’로 할 것인지 ‘자유민주주의’로 할 것인지는 국가 정체성과도 관련된 문제”라고 맞섰다. 홍 대표는 이날 오전 최고위원회의에서 “자유민주주의를 교과서에 등재시키는 것을 일부 사학자와 민주당 의원들이 반발하는 것은 대한민국 헌법을 정면으로 부정하는 처사”라고 말했다.
곽노현 서울시교육감이 추진해 온 서울교육 정책에 대한 국정감사(23일)가 차질을 빚을 가능성이 커졌다. 전날 ‘이념논쟁’으로 빚어진 국회 국정감사 파행의 여파가 계속될 것으로 보이기 때문이다.