Exit strategy neededPresident Park Geun-hye has made it official. In Tuesday’s speech at the National Assembly, the president stressed that correcting history should not be an issue for political mudfights, steadfastly underscoring the need to achieve national integration through correct history textbooks and the implanting of a sense of pride and legitimacy in the hearts of the people of the Republic of Korea. She also warned against the opposition camp’s denunciation of the government’s push for a single history textbook citing potential distortions of our modern history. The president vowed not to allow such distorted perspectives to be reflected in the new textbook.
Reacting to the president’s address, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea announced he will immediately take the steps necessary to publish a new state-designated textbook as early as February 2017.
Park’s stern position fuels political conflict. Following a rally yesterday to protest the government’s drive, the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy declared that it will kick off a bus tour across the country from Wednesday until the government wraps up the administrative procedures it needs to complete before pressing ahead with the writing of the textbooks. The critical issue of producing a balanced history textbook is suddenly overshadowed by ideological schisms. It is time to put an end to such a meaningless tug of war and build a consensus to strike a balance in history between conservatives and liberals.
The government needs an exit strategy from the quagmire of history textbooks. As we have repeatedly emphasized, priority must be placed on creating a high-quality textbook with no deadline set. It doesn’t matter how many years it will take as long as the government can produce it. The administration must exert efforts to recruit top scholars in the fields of history, politics, economics and social affairs and make public the names of participating academics. As the public would never accept any suspicious move to distort our modern history, professors have no reason to refuse to take part in rewriting the history books.
Park must take huge responsibility. Above all, she must clear all the suspicions raised by the opposition that she may try to exercise her individual grudges through the new textbooks. The president must leave the job entirely to academia. No one wants to see the issue morph into a black hole of national governance. In the second half of her five-year term, Park does not have much time left.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 28, Page 34