On November 3rd, the government approved the government issued textbook of Korean history for general usage. The government announced their textbook plan two days earlier than scheduled. Furthermore, Yun Gwan-seok, an assemblyman of The New Politics Alliance for Democracy, had suggested that there were suspicions in public opinion that had been gathered regarding the government issued textbook on November 19th, which has created even more controversy.
The textbook publishing systems are government issued, authorized, recognized and free issuance. Controversy about the Korean history textbook began in the authorization of Korean modern history in 2003, when the same controversy arose in the reorganization of the history textbook system for middle schools in 2010. In particular, there was a big conflict because of ideological oppositions in the history textbook selection process in 2013. The textbook was published by the conservatives, but there is a movement for withdrawal from the other side. On January 8th, 2014, the Ministry of Education announced that there is external pressure to support the process of withdrawal. On the same day, the ruling parties began looking for ways to reverse the left-leading history book system into a single government issued textbook.
As soon as the government announced their textbook plan, it became an endless controversy. The National Institute of Korean History said the writers compiling the Korean history textbook were a total 47 (26 for middle school and 21 for high school). Among these writers, 17 people were recruited through open recruitment and the other writers were selected by invitation. However, it became a big controversy that the list of writers was not made available to the public. Although it was decided when Professor Choi Mong-lyong, who was scheduled to attend to the ancient history writing, resigned after a sexual molestation accusation, people are still expressing worry about that. However, even the Compilation council was undisclosed by the government. The Compilation council has the right to review textbooks, revise, and supplement. As in this situation, the concerns have continued about the compilation in the secret room and biased depiction.
Despite a harsh opposition opinion, the affirmative side also has a firm position. They pointed out the biased viewpoint of the existing textbook and emphasized the necessity of government issued textbook.
Korean history subject in high school courses was splintered into ancient history and modern history in 2003. At that time, modern Korean history was turned over to an authorized system. In this process, the controversy has suggested that 93 out of a total of 128 were classified as liberal, leftist leanings who participated in 20 publications of history textbooks which were published in 2003. Because of this, concerns have been raised that a pro-North Korean history textbook was written. Particularly, Bae Il-seop, Professor of Daegu University said to opposing side, “It is wrong that distorting the history by their own view, and expressing it as a various view.”
Also, Choi Seok-man, the joint representative of Professors for the advancement of nations, led a ‘Petition movement of 10 million people for right history textbooks’ in front of the Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education. He said, “Some students are often unaware whether 6·25 Korean War is an invasion from the North Korea or South Korea. We should make right view through accurate education.”
However, opposite forces criticized that the government issued textbook is in the communist style. Professor Lee Byung-do said “Education with a government issued textbook is an old and monolithic education that was used in the communist or totalitarian nation.” Chung Ok-ja Seoul National University honorary professor who also worked for the National History Compilation Committee on the Lee administration said “Even when the government issued textbook is made, Park administration has only two years left, it will just do damage to students.” Above all, opposition forces said preventing various interpretations and demands and showing only one interpretation is a paradox in education.
Many experts and professors are also against changing to a government issued history textbook. Their grounds for the negative opinion are that the government issued textbook forces students to receive standardized education and it can cram a student’s head with onesided knowledge. Interpretations about some historical accidents can be divided by an individual’s own thoughts, but the government standard textbook cannot provide various points of view for history. They said that the current authorized textbook’s inequality problem can be solved by that National Institute of Korean History test history textbook more neutrally, so making government issued textbook is not a proper solution of the current textbook’s problem.
In addition, many professors point out the short editing period. When a history textbook is made, it usually needs to take 3 years at least because the textbook writing staffs divided parts by their major and a compilation committee examine contents, inquire related materials. However, there is just one year to make the history textbook for the 2017 education system. Students in future will study history through just one government issued textbook, so the textbook should be accurate, and more objective than ever but the period to make the textbook is shorter than ever. More seriously, many professors of various universities deny participating in making the history textbook.
Countries worldwide also had a negative response about making the government issued textbook. Foreign professors who study Korea history also declared themselves against the changing history textbook system, and foreign media broadcasted about this argument as an action that returns Korean education to the past.
YU students also took a negative attitude to the government issued textbook. ‘Daejabo’ was put on the university boards with sarcastic words about the state history textbook and a YU club studying Korea history proceeded one-man protest that criticized this changing textbook system. Also, a YU sophomore student concerned about the state history textbook because there are no alternatives under the state history textbook system although the textbook has some problem. He also said, “The government’s opinion can be reflected in the state textbook, and it cannot be revised, so making state history textbook should make many controversies after its publishing.
Other students in YU said “I think the president doesn’t have enough time to think about this work. She has many problems which have to be solved, and she even makes more complex problem.”
Students who should test Korean history in the government sponsored scholastic aptitude test also have negative thinking. They said “We should have test on next test, and this is the first time that we have to test Korean history obligatorily. In this situation, how can we think positive about government issued textbook?”