Education heads try to bar use of gov’t textbook

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Education heads try to bar use of gov’t textbook

Fourteen education office chiefs across the country are planning to bar all high schools in their respective districts from ordering the controversial state-authored history textbooks, according to a source from a group of national educational heads.

The source, who works for the National Council of Governors of Education, said Tuesday the decision was based on recent negotiations between the 14 superintendents, who formed the so-called State-authored Textbook Deterrence Task Force.

They are currently examining how to put their decision into action. Among the 14 education offices are Seoul, Gyeonggi and Incheon, which are considered center-left areas on the political spectrum. Only Ulsan, Daegu and North Gyeongsang - right-leaning regions in southeast Korea - are not in the anti-government task force.

Park Seong-min, deputy leader of a team in the Education Ministry that is in charge of the textbooks, lashed out at the 14 superintendents, saying it is “against the law” to start school without the books or use substitute history materials for their classes.

The latest decision comes less than three weeks after the Ministry of Education revealed draft versions of state-authored history textbooks for Korean middle and high school students to use next year.

History textbooks authored by the government were initially introduced in 1974 under the military rule of Park Chung Hee and lasted until 2010. The current system, in which schools choose from a range of textbooks approved by the ministry, will only have lasted for seven years once the state-published materials are distributed next spring.

The process of reintroducing state-penned books was a rocky one from the start, as liberals feared that President Park Geun-hye, daughter of the late Park Chung Hee, was attempting to reinforce her authority and reflect her conservative views by whitewashing political arguments raised by her opponents.

In the textbook, her father is described as a dictator. Critics were dismayed that the textbook spends four pages describing his achievements, but only half a page on his failings.

The textbook also created controversy by not recognizing 1919 as the official founding of the Republic of Korea, when a provisional government was founded in Shanghai by independence activists. Instead, the textbook traces the country’s inception to 1948, three years after Korea’s independence from Japan.

BY JANG HYEON-JIN, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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