Monday, October 19, 2015

Yet Another Textbook Textbook Controversy

History belongs to those who write it, and in utterly politically divided South Korea, each side accuse the other one to push its own propaganda.

PARK Geun-hye recently announced her project of a single 'correct', State-issued textbook to replace today's choice between eight private publishers. Needless to say, Korean History Research Association scholars boycotted it.

PGH's project is clearly troubling: the last South Korean leader to do so was her dictator of a father PARK Chung-hee in 1974, and even Textbook Revisionist in Chief Shinzo ABE hasn't succeeded - so far - in restoring State-issued history textbooks in Japan, where they were banned at the end of WWII. Japanese activists actually fear Korea's project could serve ABE's agenda*.

If this reform is supposed to be implemented just months before the next presidential elections in 2017, PGH's presidency is now compared to the worst moments of her predecessor LEE Myung-bak, whose government terminated the much needed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (see links below), stopped history teaching at school, created a controversial museum of contemporary history (see "The Sejongno Insult"), and even issued a creationist textbook**.

Now this is not the only controversy surrounding these book: the project is motivated by the fact that, even if some mechanisms give the government its say in the editorial line, all history textbooks are deeply biased. Not just left-leaning, but at times into pro-North Korea propaganda territories.

No wonder this debate brings back such 1970s name calling darlings as 'dictator!' or 'commies!'

IMHO something definetly had to be done regarding these textbooks, but the government chose the worst possible solution by negating the historical debate. This should have been the opportunity to tackle the issue at its core, to restart the Truth and Reconciliation process. And when there is a debate on the interpretation of events, it should be reflected in the textbooks, with diverging opinions mentioned as such.


About the termination of the TRCK:
Seoul Village 2015
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* "Japanese civic groups protesting S. Korea’s turn to state-issued textbooks" (Hankyoreh)
** see "State-condoned creationism in Korea? A cold-blooded murder against King Sejong"

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