Textbook authors cry foul over correctionsA group of history textbook authors denounced the government’s recent recommendations to make hundreds of changes to the books as a political move.
The authors of seven history textbooks said yesterday they will come up with their own plan to make corrections and modifications to the books.
Amidst a growing controversy about ideological biases in history books for high school students, the Ministry of Education said Monday that the publishers of eight Korean history textbooks should make a total of 829 revisions and modifications by Nov. 1. The textbook tiff escalated earlier this month as opposition politicians in the National Assembly criticized one textbook by Kyohak Publishing Company for having a rightist bias. The ruling Saenuri Party complained that seven textbooks were left-leaning. Errors in all eight books were also pointed out.
“The Education Ministry’s recommendation is illegal, and the Supreme Court already ruled on it,” Chu Chin-oh, professor of history at Sangmyung University, said yesterday. Chu, an author of a textbook published by the Institute for Better Education, represents the authors of the seven textbooks accused of being leftist. “So we cannot accept the recommendations.”
He said the publishers will definitely make corrections for factual errors but accused the ministry of playing politics.
“Through the requests, the ministry tried very hard to show that other textbooks were no better than the Kyohak textbook,” he said. “I think the latest recommendations were made very politically.”
He said the authors of the seven textbooks will have further discussions on what changes they will make and announce their position later this week. Other authors also said yesterday they agree with making corrections for factual errors but challenged the requests for changes that are matters of interpretations.
The eight history books were approved by the National Institute of Korean History in late August. After the controversy arose, the ministry formed a team of 25 civil servants and history teachers to analyze the eight books and also consulted a committee of 12 history experts.
On Monday it said that the eight publishers were asked to make 829 changes. “We analyzed facts, erroneous expressions, imbalances in narrations and content that could distort the national identity,” Sim Eun-seok, director of educational policy at the ministry, said. “If the publishers refuse to accept our recommendations without proper reasons, the ministry will exercise its right to correct the materials under the relevant regulations.”
Of the eight publishers, Kyohak was asked to make the most corrections, 251. The publisher Liber was asked to make 112 changes to its book.
Politicians yesterday continued to fight over the ministry’s requests. While the ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers said publishers should follow the ministry’s recommendations, the opposition Democratic Party said the ministry’s measure was nothing more than an attempt to defend the right-leaning Kyohak book.
Saenuri lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee held a press conference to say all the publishers must humbly accept the ministry’s recommendations.
“Authors of the Kyohak textbook already agreed to make changes,” said Representative Kim Hee-jung.
“Other publishers should do so to give our children better textbooks,” Kim continued.
Democratic Party lawmakers on the committee also held a press conference and condemned the ministry. They said the ministry did not request the Kyohak textbook to correct its pro-Japanese views, content that glorified the dictatorships of Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee and content that was critical of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. The lawmakers also demanded the education minister resign and that the approval of the Kyohak textbook be withdrawn.
BY SER MYO-JA, Sung si-yoon [firstname.lastname@example.org]