Suspicious omission of ‘free competition’

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Suspicious omission of ‘free competition’

The author is the head of the economic policy team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

In the draft of the 2022 revised curriculum for elementary, middle and high school students, the expression “free competition,” a key concept of the free market economy, has been deleted. The draft was compiled by policy researchers during the Moon Jae-in administration. In the previously released Korean history curriculum, “liberal democracy” and the “June 25 southward invasion” were removed controversially. I am worried that there may be attempts to shake the identity of Korea in the economy.

Here are the changes. The existing elementary social studies textbook for sixth graders states, “The pursuit of harmony between free competition and economic justice explains the characteristics of Korean economic system.” But the revised curriculum states, “Students understand the roles of households and companies in the market economy and explore workers’ rights and corporate social responsibilities.” After the phrase “free competition” was eliminated, a new phrase highlighting workers’ rights and corporate responsibilities was added.

In the social studies textbook for ninth graders, the phrase “free market economy” was also removed to stress companies’ roles and social responsibility in the free market economy.

The curriculum draft lists what students must learn and serves as the standards for writing textbooks and a guideline for teachers’ instruction. Here, removing “free competition” and highlighting distribution and equality can plant a negative perception about the market economy. It seems to reflect the intention of some left-leaning researchers to demonize businesses and industrialists and deny the growth engine of the market.

Free competition, along with liberal democracy, is the basis of the “free market economy,” one of the two pillars of our Constitutional values. If freedom and competition are pushed back, it is difficult to expect creative technological development and innovation. That’s why President Yoon Suk-yeol vowed to uphold liberal democracy and market economy at his inauguration.

Exceptionally, the Ministry of Economy and Finance got involved. In a phone call with the JoongAng Ilbo, a ministry official said, “We conveyed our opinion to the education authorities that it is necessary to state balanced and neutral contents.”

Although the study began in the previous administration, the current administration cannot avoid responsibility for not filtering the biased contents. The students who will be the foundation of the Korean economy in the future cannot be taught ideologically-bent contents. The curriculum draft will be finalized through a National Education Commission review and a vote after public hearings starting at the end of this month. The Education Ministry must revise the draft by accommodating opinions from various sectors. That is the raison d’être of the Ministry of Education.
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