Park proposes joint textbooks

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Park proposes joint textbooks

President Park Geun-hye proposed yesterday that Northeast Asian countries work together to write history textbooks for their young students, as Germany did with France and Poland in the past.

She made the proposal at a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy.

“To work for peace through cooperation, I think countries in Northeast Asia should share a perception of the future,” she said in an address at the ceremony. “Without sharing a purpose, even the smallest difference can’t be overcome. But if the purpose is the same, differences can be overcome. By publishing a history book jointly written by Northeast Asian countries - as Germany did with France and Poland - we could develop the tradition of cooperation as East and West Europe did.”

Such a collaboration would eventually lead to a day when the “wall of historic problems” - the causes of conflict and distrust - is destroyed, the president said.

She said if Northeast Asia could become an economic bloc like the European Union, it would give an “immense opportunity” to Korea.

In 2006, French and German historians wrote and released a textbook that became a landmark in French-German relations. It was the world’s first history text co-written by two countries.

Work has been more difficult on joint production of a high school history textbook for German and Polish students, an idea that dates back to 1976. The first volume was supposed to be published this year, two years behind schedule, but the plan has been pushed back by another two years to 2015.

“The Germany-Poland joint textbook project offers more real implications than the Germany-France case to those who intend to publish a Korea-Japan or East Asia joint textbook,” said the Ministry of Education’s Northeast Asian History Foundation on its web site.

President Park said yesterday that Korea knows very well how great the potential is for cooperation on peace among Northeast Asian countries and how important it is for the world.

“Despite the enormous potential, however, the political and security realities of Northeast Asia remain stumbling blocks,” she said, “rather than supporting integration.”

Park’s proposal relates to the cooperative peace framework in Northeast Asia, one of her signature initiatives. It is intended to overcome the so-called “Asia paradox,” which refers to Northeast Asia’s rapid economic progress coexisting with historical and territorial conflicts, a potential arms race, nuclear threats and lack of trust.

Despite the grandiose scope of the peace and cooperation initiative, Park has been criticized for not coming up with practical suggestions.

Some 300 diplomats, government officials and students attended the event, including Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. Guests from overseas were Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State; Fu Ying, former vice foreign minister of China; Seiji Maehara, former foreign affairs minister of Japan; Surin Pitsuwan, former foreign minister of Thailand; and Knut Vollebaek, former foreign minister of Norway.

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