Gov’t to set new rules for history textbooks

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Gov’t to set new rules for history textbooks

The Ministry of Education plans to announce new guidelines for high school history textbooks in about two months, officials said Wednesday, in what will likely stir another heated debate over politically controversial events in Korea’s past.

The ministry on Wednesday released a draft proposal, made by its affiliated research institute, of writing guidelines to be used for middle and high school students starting in 2020.

The draft will be reviewed by a committee comprising of government officials, educators and parents. It will then hold a public hearing on the proposal before reviewing it again for final release.

“The final proposal will be announced around early July,” a ministry official said.

The entire process heralds yet another fierce ideological debate over major events in the country’s history. History textbooks have always caused a political fuss in the past, and the way in which they are written, especially in terms of how they portray past events, has been swayed by the political orientation of the ruling government.

Conservative governments have maintained that South Korea is “the only legitimate state on the Korean Peninsula,” meaning it does not acknowledge North Korea as a state accepted by the international community. They also insist that the 1950-53 Korean War started because of the North’s “invasion of the South.” Liberals do not completely agree with stating these as facts.

Last year, the liberal government under President Moon Jae-in scrapped a plan to publish state-authored history textbooks, a plan that was pushed by his predecessor, the conservative Park Geun-hye.

In 2015, Park ordered high school history textbooks to be rewritten “to correct left-leaning content.” The revisions sparked criticism from historians who saw them as distorting some key events, including the 18-year period when Park’s father, Park Chung Hee, ruled the country.

The revisions glorified his reign and left out numerous human rights abuses, historians said.

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