School chiefs, teachers say no to history books

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School chiefs, teachers say no to history books

A number of provincial education chiefs declared Tuesday they will not accept state-authored history textbooks in their schools, a day after the Ministry of Education revealed drafts of the texts. “We cannot use a state history textbook that has not garnered the consensus of the people,” Jang Man-chae, head of the South Jeolla Provincial Office of Education, said Tuesday.

“The government’s plan to write middle and high school history textbooks was a retrogressive action in terms of history education.”

The Ministry of Education Monday revealed draft versions of state-authored history textbooks for Korean middle and high school students.

Jang said the National Council of Governors of Education requested the scrapping of state-produced textbooks on Nov. 24, and expressed regret that the government chose to unveil its drafts and ignore the education chiefs’ demand.

“Revealing the textbook drafts nonetheless is regretful because it is damaging historic legitimacy,” he said. “In order to minimize chaos in the educational arena in 2017, education chiefs nationwide will respond together.”

The final versions of the state-produced textbooks are set to be released in late January 2017 and distributed to middle and high school students across the nation in March 2017.

The drafts, authored by teachers, professors, researchers and retired scholars, were revealed in the middle of an abuse of power scandal dragging down the Park Geun-hye administration.

The drafts unveiled by the Education Ministry recognized President Park Chung Hee, the late father of the current president, as a dictator, which was considered a positive sign by scholars. But the high school textbook spent more time describing his positive achievements than his faults. It also said the Republic of Korea was formally established on Aug. 15, 1948, three years after Japan ended its 35 years of colonialism rule over the Korean Peninsula. Liberal scholars see 1919 as the official founding of the Republic of Korea, when a provisional government was founded in Shanghai by independence activists.

Opposition councilmen in the Gyeonggi Provincial Council’s education committee also demanded the scrapping of state-issued textbooks, declaring in a statement they constituted a “government monopoly of history.”

Members of the Gyeonggi education committee from the Minjoo Party of Korea said in a press conference, “Some 80 percent of history professors nationwide refused to take part in the writing [of the textbooks] and some 90 percent of middle and high school history teachers are opposed to the state-authoring of textbooks. State-written textbooks, another monopoly in state affairs, need to be scrapped and the chaos in schools and education must be ended.”

The Jeju branch of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union on Tuesday also released a statement denouncing the textbooks. It said they deny the April 3, 1948 uprising on the island, which led to a government massacre of tens of thousands of people.

The union’s North Chungcheong chapter also staged a rally in Cheongju demanding the scrapping of textbooks that are “pro-Japanese, glamorizing of dictatorship and unconstitutional.”

In just one day since the state-written drafts were revealed, the Education Ministry received over 340 suggestions on its website on the issue.

The Education Ministry faced ridicule for getting its drawing of the Taegukgi, the Korean flag, wrong in an online cartoon on its Facebook page that was supposed to publicize the textbook drafts.

The ministry was forced to issue an apology Tuesday.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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