Correct inaccurate history textbooks

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Correct inaccurate history textbooks

The guidelines on Korean history education for 2022, which were released by the Ministry of Education on Tuesday, were full of historical distortions and biases. History textbooks for middle and high schools are written based on the guidelines. But the guidelines sound alarms as they can teach our students simply wrong history.

A look into the details of the guidelines leaves us dumbfounded, as they not only dismiss objective facts but also deliver controversial views clashing with the Constitution. The head of scholars who set the guidelines is a professor who provoked controversy by portraying Yu Gwan-sun — a renowned independence fighter during the colonial days — as a “hero created by pro-Japanese forces.” The biggest flaw in the new guidelines is the arbitrary omission of “invasion by North Korea” in describing the 1950-53 Korean War. Such ill-intended guidelines can offer fertile ground for historical revisionism — such as the theory that President Syngman Rhee induced North Korea to attack South Korea — to re-emerge today.

The debate over who started the war was over long ago. In his memoir published in the U.S. in 1970, Nikita Khrushchev, the former First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, confessed that Joseph Stalin gave the nod to Kim Il Sung after he repeatedly visited Stalin to get approval since 1949. A document from Russian archives also affirmed the invasion by North Korea.

Today, even Russia’s history textbooks define the war as a southward invasion. Yet the Moon Jae-in administration attempted to delete the phrase — “an invasion by North Korea” — when it revised history guidelines in 2018. The progressive administration had to surrender in the face of mounting criticism. But the same controversy has re-emerged.

Another problem with the guidelines for 2022 is the deletion of the term “liberal” from “liberal democracy.” In 2018, the Moon administration tried to remove “liberal” in describing South Korea’s political system, but failed in the face of public opposition. But this time, the new guidelines omitted “liberal” in explaining the political system. Proponents of the deletion claim that there is no need to specify it in textbooks as the term democracy itself contains the meaning of “liberal.”

But if liberalism disappears, democracy can turn to tyranny of the majority, as eloquently warned against by John Stuart Mill in his book “On Liberty” in the 19th century. President Yoon Suk-yeol has stressed the importance of liberalism. The contradictory guidelines have just been disclosed by the Yoon administration. The Ministry of Education under the conservative president must correct deep-rooted distortions of history before it is too late.
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