Let officials off the hookIts like déjà vu all over again — the incumbent government undoes or corrects major policies of the previous administration. An internal investigation team at the Education Ministry accused the aides of former President Park Geun-hye of having meddled in the government-administered rewriting of high school history textbooks.
The team claimed that the Education Ministry has violated laws to follow the orders of the Blue House and filed prosecutorial charges against former presidential and Education Ministry officials. A separate team in charge of reforming labor and employment administration at the Ministry of Employment and Labor also claimed that presidential aides were involved in the changes to the labor and hiring regulations and requested punishment.
Public officials should be punished if they create irregularities in policymaking. Education Ministry officials have been gutless in taking up orders from the Blue House in administrating school textbooks. But whether it is history books or labor regulations, it is wrong to dump accountability on officials for the policies of the past administration. The bureaucratic community could turn lethargic if public officials become responsible for following orders every time a new governing power comes in.
The incumbent Moon Jae-in administration has also not been fair in administering textbooks. For instance, it ordered the inclusion of the candlelight vigil protest that helped oust former President Park Geun-hye and put Moon in office in elementary school textbooks without justification.
It also stoked controversy by tweaking the wording of “establishment of the Republic of Korea” as the “founding of the government of the Republic of Korea” in high school history textbooks.
Should the public officials, who were involved in the changes in the textbooks, face punishment under the next government?
To end the poor tradition and ideological influences, the work of writing the history textbooks should be left to a neutral civilians and academic groups.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 29, Page 34