Gov’t to release details on textbook plan today

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Gov’t to release details on textbook plan today

The government said on Sunday that it will announce details of its controversial plan to publish state-written history textbooks today.

The Ministry of Education said on Sunday that it will hold a briefing session today at the Sejong Government Complex for the announcement.

“Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea will be announcing that the government will exclusively publish history textbooks and explain the reason and purpose to the media,” said an official of the Education Ministry on Sunday.

The announcement today, justifying a new government role in writing history textbooks for middle and high schools, is expected to only deepen the strife between the ruling Saenuri Party, in support of the government plan, and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), which strongly opposes the plan.

Education Minister Hwang attended a consultation session with the ruling Saenuri Party on Sunday. Kim Jung-hoon, the ruling party’s chief policy maker, presided over the meeting.

“[Current history textbooks] are spoiling the authenticity and identity of our constitution with anti-South Korea and anti-United States - but pro-North Korea - connotations and are teaching our children Kim Il Sung’s Juche ideology,” Kim said. “We need consolidated history textbooks to lessen the burdens on students and their parents, and we should respect the wishes of most students to minimize the burden of college entrance exams by consolidating history textbooks.”

Juche, or self-reliance, is the official ideology of North Korea and the North’s founder, Kim Il Sung (1912-94).

“History education is not simple, and it should give the right view of the country and its history, which becomes a fundamental of the state’s existence,” said Rep. Kim Eul-dong, who is heading the party’s special committee on the history textbooks. “It is a national crisis that we are allowing biases and distortions of history in the name of diverse views.”

The main opposition NPAD also held an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon with experts from outside and suggested a parliamentary investigation into the current qualification process for publishing history books.

“The government is demanding all people wear the same glasses for their view of history,” said Lee Jong-kul, floor leader of the NPAD. “Letting the government exclusively publish history textbooks needs a social consensus.

“I suggest a parliamentary investigation into the qualification system for history textbooks to find out the problems and discuss how to change the system,” Lee said.

Currently, eight publishers develop and supply Korean history textbooks to middle and high schools. The ruling party complained over the past few years that seven of them were leaning too far to the left.

State control over Korean history textbooks was first introduced under the military rule of Park Chung Hee in 1974 and ended in 2010. The controversy over the current system, in which schools choose from a range of textbooks approved by the Education Ministry, started in 2013 as the ministry ordered all eight publishers to make corrections even after the materials passed initial screening by the state-run National Institute of Korean History.

Kyohak Publishing Company, criticized for a conservative bias, agreed to make all the changes, but authors of the other seven refused and made their own revisions.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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