Measures for textbook authorization discussed

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Measures for textbook authorization discussed

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Lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party and officials from the Ministry of Education hold a consultative meeting yesterday in the National Assembly to coordinate policies on a history textbook approval system and college reform measures, among other issues. [NEWSIS]

Officials from the ruling Saenuri Party and the Ministry of Education held a bilateral meeting yesterday in which they reached a consensus that the ministry will announce measures to improve its oversight over history textbooks no later than the end of June.

“Through the meeting, the Saenuri and the ministry agreed that there is a need to change the status quo when it comes to the regulation of textbooks,” Representative Kim Hee-jung, who presided over the meeting, said at a press conference. “The ministry will come up with measures to produce a high-quality [history] textbook based on a balanced perspective of history with factual accuracy.”

During the meeting at the National Assembly, officials discussed ways to strengthen the ministry’s monitoring and revision of history textbooks authored by private publishers, which would ideally prevent the kind of controversy that played out in recent weeks involving a textbook by Kyohak Publishing Company.

The initial certification process for history textbooks under the current system is “too short, with too few experts involved in the process,” Kim said.

Reviving a state-designated textbook system in which the government is in charge of writing and distributing school textbooks will also be considered, he acknowledged.

However, that move would likely face harsh objection by the opposition, which has claimed that such textbooks only satisfy the perspective of history embraced by the government.

“The government will not tolerate any action that infringes upon students’ rights to learn and will come up with legal measures [to prevent such pressure],” Kim continued.

Amid a growing public outcry over the conservative Kyohak textbook, a number of schools reversed their initial decisions to use the book. And after conducting a two-day investigation into the matter, the Ministry of Education said last week that the schools were swayed by “unjust outside pressure” from civic groups, a conclusion that was criticized by the Democratic Party and liberal organizations.

Kyohak, known to have a conservative historical slant, was scrutinized the most in the textbook controversy, and to such an extent that only one school in the country appears to be going ahead with the book for the next academic year.

Critics of Kyohak claim its book is “pro-authoritarian” and describes Japan’s colonial rule on the peninsula from 1910 to 1945 in a favorable light.

One of the most contested elements in the Kyohak textbook is a caption for a photo that depicts Korean women who were forcibly enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II - euphemistically called “comfort women.”

“Unlike other local comfort women, there were many occasions in which Korean comfort women [in a third country] followed Japanese troops each time they moved to another battle line,” the caption reads, as if to imply that the women voluntarily followed.

The caption was revised in its final edition and now reads, “Not only were Korean comfort women exploited in a stationing area [of the Japanese Army], but they were also forcibly and frequently taken to the front lines.”


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

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