Sangsan High School to drop Kyohak textbook

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Sangsan High School to drop Kyohak textbook

Succumbing to public backlash both online and in the classroom, Sangsan High School, in Jeonju, North Jeolla, which had intended to use a history textbook by Kyohak Publishing Company, announced yesterday that it is dropping its initial plan.

“We initially planned to introduce two textbooks - one by Kyohak and another by Jihaksa Publishing Company - to give students a balanced perspective on history,” Park Sam-ok, the principal of the private school, said yesterday during a press briefing at the North Jeolla Office of Education. “But because our decision spawned so much dispute and distrust in the institution, we decided to only use the Jihaksa textbook.”

Over the past few weeks, Sangsan High School faced snowballing public criticism for holding steadfast in its decision to use the Kyohak history textbook, remaining one of the few schools still going ahead with the controversial book.

Park apologized during the briefing for the school’s seizure of a poster put up by a student in the school hallway in protest of its decision to use the Kyohak book. The North Jeolla Office of Education earlier stated it would investigate the case to see if that move violated students’ basic rights of expression.

The Kyohak history textbook came under scrutiny for having a conservative bias and soft-pedaling its criticism of Japanese colonial rule and the 18-year dictatorship of Park Chung Hee. Critics said it overemphasized Park’s economic achievements.

The book also came under fire for its description of the May 18 Gwangju Massacre. Critics argued that the book implies that civilian casualties in the city were the result of an uprising by the civilian militia, not forces deployed by the military government.

Of the approximately 800 high schools nationwide, about a dozen initially announced plans to use the Kyohak textbook, which sparked protests from liberals, civic groups and students. Under increasing pressure, a significant number of schools dropped their plans to use the Kyohak textbook.

Following Sangsan’s decision yesterday, Hanmin High School, located in Paju, Gyeonggi - which is scheduled to open in March for the children of military servicemen - said it will reconsider its initial decision to use the Kyohak history textbook.

In the midst of growing public pressure, the Ministry of Education announced Monday that it would investigate the schools that dropped the Kyohak book to make sure external pressure did not affect their choices.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr ]

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