Park stresses reform of history education

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Park stresses reform of history education

President Park Geun-hye yesterday stressed the importance of history education, ordering her aides to come up with a measure to end distortions of historical facts in classrooms.

Quoting a survey by a local newspaper, Park yesterday expressed her concerns about the historical awareness of Korean youngsters. “It was shocking to see a recent media poll which said 69 percent of high school respondents said the [1950-53] Korean War was a South Korean invasion of the North,” Park said at a meeting with her senior secretaries.

Park said the survey shows a glimpse of the failure of history education, vowing to correct the matter.

“Teachers can have different teaching methods based on their own philosophies and I believe diversified methods are also desirable,” Park said. “But truth and history must never be distorted in classrooms.”

“It shakes the basic values and patriotism of the youngsters and distorts the sacrifices of our patriots,” Park said. “Such practice is unacceptable under any circumstance.”

Park, then, ordered her aides to check on various problems in the classrooms and come up with a measure to offer rightful history lessons to students.

Next Tuesday marks the 63rd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.

The Seoul Shinmun published a survey on the youngsters’ historical awareness on June 10. In the poll of 506 high school students nationwide, 69 percent said the Korean War was started by the South’s invasion of the North.

As of now, all six high school history textbooks state that the Korean War was the North’s invasion of the South, the newspaper said, but the students were either unclear about the main reason that triggered the war or confused about the term “invasion.”

Korean history is currently not a mandatory subject in the College Scholastic Ability Test, and demands have grown recently in the political arena that it be included on the exam in order to force students to closely study history.

At a National Assembly hearing on Thursday, lawmakers from the Saenuri Party and the Democratic Party urged Education Minister Seo Nam-soo to include Korean history on the college admission test.

Seo responded that more reviewing is needed because such a measure will allow students to have wider knowledge of historical facts, but historical perception is a separate matter.

The conservative ruling Saenuri Party and the liberal opposition Democratic Party, however, engaged in a debate over the ideological leaning of history textbooks.

While the Saenuri Party supports the recent government approval of a new high school textbook on Korean history, written by a group of conservative scholars, the Democratic Party criticized the Park administration for failing to address some sensitive issues in modern history.

“Rumors spread that the new textbook contains ‘ultra-rightist’ views,” said Saenuri Representative Lee No-keun. “The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union is about to boycott the book, while the opposition party is trying to label it as a distorted history textbook.”

In response, Democratic Party Representative Lee Yong-sup criticized the Park government for “doing nothing” to stop the growing attempts in society to distort the sensitive events of Korea’s modern history.

Most middle school textbooks failed to state that the military opened fire at the citizen militia during the Gwangju democratization movement in 1980, he said, while high school textbooks only describe the Dec. 12 coup d’etat by Chun Doo Hwan in 1979 as the “Dec. 12 incident.”

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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