Park endorses state-run textbooks as liberals rally

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Park endorses state-run textbooks as liberals rally

President Park Geun-hye reiterated her endorsement for state-authored history textbooks on Tuesday, stressing that the initiative was an “inevitable mission” in order for the country’s youth to have a “proper historical view.”

Without outlining what events in national history she believed lacked a singular voice, Park lashed out at opposition from the liberal bloc.

The opposition, she said, “must not cause a national schism for the sake of the country and the public.”

The president’s statement, given during a senior secretaries’ meeting just hours before her flight to the United States, was her first direct reference to the issue in nearly eight months.

Adamantly rejecting Park’s call for “national unity” on the reforms, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) continued their boycott throughout the day, issuing a series of statements denouncing the plan and taking their defiance out onto the streets for a signature drive near Yeouido Station on subway line No. 5 in southern Seoul.

“A state history textbook would be pro-Japanese,” said NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in, “in that it would say that Japanese colonial rule spurred [South Korea’s] modernization.

“The Park administration is pushing ahead with the plan to beautify and justify a pro-Japanese stance and political dictatorship,” he continued, in an apparent reference to the military rule of President Park Chung Hee, the late father of the current president.

“Out of all members [in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development], excluding special cases like Muslim countries, not a single nation has a state-authored history textbook.”

The campaign had a few tense encounters with passersby - mostly middle aged men - who demanded to know why schools were teaching North Korean ideologies.

The right-winged Korea Parent Federation reacted by launching their own signature drive some 50 meters (55 yards) away, claiming through a megaphone the NPAD was responsible for left-leaning textbooks in the first place.

The South Gyeongsang chapter of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU), the country’s largest liberal teachers’ bloc, also proclaimed they would make their own history textbooks and use them during class.

On Monday, the Ministry of Education relayed plans to reintroduce state-authored history textbooks for secondary school students, saying the new “proper” textbooks would be published by the National Institute of Korean History under the ministry and distributed in March 2017, the start of the school year.

Currently, eight publishers develop and supply Korean history textbooks for middle and high schools, all of which require approval by the Education Ministry.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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