New guidelines for history texts announced

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New guidelines for history texts announced

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced yesterday new guidelines for middle school history textbooks that will be distributed starting in 2013.

Under the new guidelines, South Korea is to be described as the “only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula” and the use of the word “dictatorship” to describe former military regimes will be maintained.

The guidelines were created following four months of discussions, with opinions from various circles were taken into consideration, according to the Education Ministry.

During that time, three key issues emerged as points of contention: use of the phrase the “only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula,” use of the terms “democracy” or “liberal democracy,” and continued use of the word “dictatorship” to describe the Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee governments.

Meanwhile, the dispute between conservative and progressive groups over these points intensified.

Conservative critics insisted that the term “liberal democracy” be used instead of the current “democracy” to distinguish it from other terms including “social democracy” and “people’s democracy.” They also insisted on scrapping the word “dictatorship” to describe the military regimes and said that South Korea should be described as the “only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula.”

Progressive critics insisted that the word “only” not be used in describing the government. They also advocated for continued use of the terms “democracy” (instead of “liberal democracy”) and “dictatorship.”

The Education Ministry, which received the authority to order changes to school textbooks in August, ultimately agreed with the conservative critics on describing South Korea as the “only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula,” explaining that “It is an obvious fact that was acknowledged by the UN General Assembly in 1948.” The ministry said it will also add the fact that “the Republic of Korea was established in 1948 and its government was recognized by the United Nations through General Assembly Resolution 195.”

The ministry also said it will use the term “liberal democracy” which is used in the Constitution. It also decided to use “tilt toward dictatorship” to describe the military regimes.

Fifteen experts including constitutional scholars and history teachers formed the committee on the new guidelines assembled by the ministry. Five more experts will be added to the group when it begins setting new guidelines for high school history textbooks next month.


By Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

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