Textbook issue overruns president’s talk

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Textbook issue overruns president’s talk

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President Park Geun-hye, second from right, stands with the chairmen of the ruling and opposition parties and their floor leaders Thursday at the Blue House. From left: Saenuri floor leader Won Yoo-chul; Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung; NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in; President Park, and NPAD floor leader Lee Jong-kul. [joint press corps]

President Park Geun-hye made clear Thursday that she will stick with her campaign to restore state control over history textbooks, rejecting a demand from the main opposition leader to reconsider the plan.

Park invited the chairmen of the ruling and opposition parties and their floor leaders for a meeting at the Blue House on Thursday to discuss the nation’s most pressing issues.

Ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung and floor leader Won Yoo-chul attended the talk along with Moon Jae-in, the leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), and its floor leader Lee Jong-kul.

“President Park and the participants of the meeting agreed that proper history education is necessary for our students,” Kim Sung-woo, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs, said after the conclusion of the talks. “However, they disagreed on [Park’s] decision to restore state control over history textbooks.”

“Park expressed disappointment that her efforts to devise proper history textbooks were turned into a political issue,” Kim continued. “She has stressed that we need proper history textbooks for national unity.”

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education announced a plan that history textbooks for middle and high schools would be developed and published by the state. The new books will be introduced starting in 2017, it said.

While the ruling party, which has previously complained about the left-leaning tendencies of most textbooks, welcomed the plan and has actively promoted the need for state-penned textbooks, the opposition party condemned the move.

During the Blue House meeting, Moon said the economy was in a dire state, but that Park was wasting time and effort to glorify her family’s past. His opening remark was made public by the NPAD while the leaders were still in the meeting.

“I cannot understand why the president is obsessed with restoring state control over history textbooks in this time of critical economic crisis,” he said. “The people see state-published textbooks as materials that glorify collaboration with the colonial Japanese government and dictatorship. They also oppose a conformist history education.”

Moon and other NPAD leaders previously said Park’s history textbook campaign was an attempt to beautify the past of her late father, President Park Chung Hee, calling him a collaborator of the Japanese colonial government and a dictator.

No “normal” country, he added, uses state-controlled textbooks.

“I felt hopeless as if I was talking to a giant wall,” the opposition leader said after the meeting, adding that the president and the ruling party chairman had a perception of history that was far from sensible.

The president and senior leaders from both sides additionally discussed other legislative issues, the Blue House said.

She urged the National Assembly to quickly ratify the free-trade agreement with China and approve the bills concerning economic recovery that were still pending at the legislature after three years.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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