Gov’t to review controversial textbook passage

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Gov’t to review controversial textbook passage

The Ministry of Education will be reviewing how late President Park Chung Hee is described in the new state-authored textbooks after public backlash that the text glosses over the negative aspects of his dictatorial regime and dwells too much on his accomplishments.

“Through the various feedback gathered on the draft version of the state-authored textbooks,” a senior Education Ministry official said Wednesday, “we ranked the top opinions, and one of these included the topic of Park Chung Hee.”

Previously, the Education Ministry responded to accusations that the state-penned textbooks glorified Park Chung Hee, the father of Park Geun-hye, and that it allocated too many pages to him, by claiming there is not much difference compared to current authorized private textbooks.

“Reflecting in a large part the requests of the people,” the official said, “the final version will be revealed in January.”

He indicated that the content that faces the most public criticism will be revised first.

The Education Ministry announced Tuesday it will postpone by one year the implementation of the textbooks for middle and high school students, which would have taken place in March.

From 2018, it will enable schools to choose between the state-authored textbooks or authorized private textbooks currently being used by schools.

The College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) exams, which are used as college-entrance exams, will only cover content that will overlap these textbooks.

In November, the Education Ministry revealed draft versions of state-authored history textbooks for Korean middle and high school students.

It collected thousands of public opinion entries over the course of the past month before reaching the decision to postpone the state-authored textbooks.

Liberals pointed out that the high school textbook spent four pages describing Park Chung Hee’s positive achievements, while allotting only half a page to his failings.

But it does not seem like the ministry will revise another controversial passage that describes the Republic of Korea as being founded in 1948, when the Constitution was enacted and the First Republic of South Korea was formally established.

Liberal scholars view 1919 as the official founding of the Republic of Korea, when a provisional government was founded in Shanghai by independence activists.

While the Education Ministry said that in 2018, authorized private textbooks will be able to be used alongside state-written textbooks, publishers are worried that the process of getting their textbooks authorized by the government will become more strict.

“The evaluation and printing period takes around seven to eight months,” said an official of one publisher of school textbooks.

“It would be impossible to compete against state-authored textbooks that have been in the works for over a year,” the official added. “Unless the criteria for textbooks do not change along with a change in administration, the terminology and composition will have to be like that of the state-authored textbooks.”

BY NAM YOON-SEO, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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