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One History, A Government-Designated Textbook
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승인 2016.02.11  21:31:36
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 The controversial issue that is making Korea hot under the collar is the government's peremptory compilation of a new Korean history textbook. The Korean government has declared that a number of history textbooks will be abolished and that they will make their own history textbook which will be developed by the National History Compilation Committee. Last month, after the government passed the policy, many people opposed the government's policy. On November 3rd, a national history textbook was determined to be developed. Maybe, the history that the government has decided to introduce alone might be a Korean history. Therefore, the nation has the right to know exactly what the government is planning to do with the national history textbook. We must know clearly whether there is a problem with the policy. 

1. Prosecution Background of a Government-Designated History Textbook

a. What Is a Government-Designated Textbook?

           Before we figure out what the government-designated textbook is, let’s find out more about the publication system of the textbook. Above all, the process of publishing a textbook is accomplished in this order; compilation, deliberation, publication and provision. According to the main agent of compilation, a textbook is divided into a government-issued textbook system, a textbook authorization system, a textbook adoption system and a textbook autonomy system. What we must look carefully at is the ‘government-issued textbook system’ and ‘textbook authorization system’. A Government-issued textbook system is a textbook system where the government or local government produce a textbook directly and supply this to the public as one textbook. On the other hand, the textbook authorization system is where the government or public interest institution produces and publishes a textbook with a standard objective. In short, a government-designated history textbook means the current government is supposed to determine the history textbook. They are going to organize their own compilation committee and publish the textbooks for the students in Korea.

b. The Government's Stance

           Last October 12th, the Park Guen-hye administration revealed that the government-designated history textbook will be conducted in 2017. It was not an unprecedented incident and there was a similar attempt in 1972. The former President Park Chung-hee, the father of President Park Guen-hye, developed a  government-designated textbook while he ran the despotic government. It was for him to verify his own legitimacy and accelerate his dictatorship by utilizing the textbook under the Korean government. And now, President Park Guen-hye, who is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, is about to develop a national history textbook in 2015.

           The present government asserted that they are conducting this policy in order to repair controversial historical errors caused by a number of publishers of history textbooks. Their purpose is to teach a ‘correct’ historical view to students through a government-designated history textbook. For instance, there are some textbooks where the brutal act of the Japanese stealing Korean rice is expressed as being Korea legally importing the rice to Japan. And each textbook has a biased point of view because those characteristics can have a left leaning or a right leaning political tendency. Also, the government is trying to fix these textbooks because some textbooks include content that stands up for North Korea's leader and ideas in some parts. In other words, the government says that we must make a more well-balanced history textbook, via the government since there too many interpretations. Moreover, establishing discipline in the country will be a wise choice by the Korean government, via the government-designated textbook, in order to achieve unity among Korean citizens,  both inspiring the spirit of independence and growing the patriotism for Korea. If government educates students with another ideological idea while missing South Korean ideology, that could be a national loss. Thus, they are trying to develop this government-designated textbook for national unity. However, changing five thousand years of history through just one political power is questionable.    

2. The Reason Why History Textbooks Are Not Alone

a. History in Various Points of View

           The biggest reason why people oppose a government-designated history textbook is because of historical point of view. History should be looked at from various viewpoints because it penetrates the essence of history. History is able to be interpreted in an infinite variety of viewpoints and can depend on education, political leaning, religion, ethnicity, social class, gender and everything in between. But, if these viewpoints are neglected and made unruly, a diverse interpretation of history will be buried in the old era and posterity will remember a mistaken history. So, many people are endeavoring to oppose the government-designated textbook. Meanwhile, we cannot estimate that one sided history is objective in the textbook. Some incidents or facts are fixed definitely based on fact. However, there are many different opinions of one fact according to different viewpoints. There are so many opinions that each person can express, and people often claim that only their opinions are right while they see the same thing. We should see history the way it is, not by seeing it with prejudices, which is perhaps a lack of historical objectivity. It is very difficult for us to grasp historical objectivity, but it is one of the processes that we are aiming for. Consequently, what we really see significantly is we must look real true.

b. Students Learn One History

           We need to know more about the textbook itself, since the textbook is a knowledge system which students study and that they need for life in society and as a basic system of reference in their mind.. If the textbook teaches the wrong history and connects to the ideas and idealisms of the students who lead the future of Korea, then they are saying the wrong thing is right, through incorrect historical education. For example, former President Park Chung-hee's dictatorship could be seen as an inevitable revolution due to an incorrect textbook. In addition, they could embrace the contents that support and believe the North Korean ideologies, students could believe that the North Korean government conducts a desirable policy. Likewise, students can have a wrong historical viewpoint from a wrong history textbook. Teaching students with a government-designated textbook which could be biased can cause a lot of danger if the government isn't careful.

c. The Government-Designated Textbook as a Political Means

            It is possible for the government-designated textbook to be used for political means. In particular, many politicians could have a political fight with the textbook in Korean society where tight conflicts occur between the left and the right. Whenever a new government takes over, the contents of the textbooks will be changed continually and the contents could go toward the extreme left or the extreme right. So, the students who study the textbook are going to be confused considerably, they will be victims of political dispute. The present government has asserted the new textbook under the pretext that they should establish a proper view of history and amend incorrect historical descriptions. We, the people, must demand whether the government insists that the new textbook is for their own interests or not. They may be about to build a more powerful government than nation and tighten the opposition party's position by literally re-writing history. Therefore, all people have to track their political purpose thoroughly through the prosecution of the government-designated textbook.

           Moreover, the limitations of the government's plan can be the opposite reason for the government-designated textbook. The current government hasn’t only not mentioned the exact and detailed contents of the textbook, but also also received doubts from the people for their announcement they are planning to begin the policy in 2017. Usually, it takes about 2~3 years to make a textbook, but it is currently getting close to 2016. So it seems that the government is trying to perform the policy beyond their ability. Like the preceding, the textbook is a knowledge system that leads student's ideas, but if the textbooks are not developed carefully, many problems will occur.   

3. In the Center of Education

a. Students & Professor's Moves

           As the government-designated textbook debate continues, authorities are rising from everywhere. The representative people are professors from the department of history. They want to keep history from being changed by the government and are opposing the government-designated textbook. Some professors demonstrate to object the government-designated textbook and have an attitude of rejection that does not compile government-designated textbook. Furthermore, from high school students to university students, many people are trying to oppose the textbook along with the professors. In particular, recently seventeen university students have been taken to the police station because of their objection campaign for the government-designated textbook at Gwanghwamun Plaza. High school students as well as university students expressed their opinions about the opposition of a government-designated textbook. There are people who oppose the government-designated textbook by shouting chants, and some people are doing these things through a signature-seeking campaign.    

4. Conclusion and Remaining Question

           This government-designated history textbook is so controversial that many opinions are divided. The government confirmed the government-designated history textbook on November 3rd, so their deed drew more strong opposition from the nation. The opinions both governmental and national make sense. Government is trying to develop a new textbook in order to solve wrong historical viewpoints by diversification. The people are trying to oppose the government-designated textbook because history must be looked at from various points of view. And in the case that the government-designated textbook is also incorrect, it will evoke a wrong historical awareness.        

           This reporter wants to throw a question to you from this journalist's position  of objectivity.  Doesn’t the fact that President Park Guen-hye is the daughter of Park Chung-hee make you feel opposition toward the government-designated history textbook more and more? Because of the prejudice that Park Chung-hee conducts dictatorship for 16 years in Korea. You could have an absurd face after you read this question. But, we hope you look at this problem with an objective stance. The nation needs to worry deeply about whether they commit the common fallacy of generalization like "Somebody will behave in this way because of a certain reason" Of course, it is a big issue that the current government has claimed the government-designated textbook without any information to the nation. However, it is true that the nation does not have to judge hastily in the situation where nothing is revealed as well. Likewise, the government must not conduct affairs of the state arbitrarily, ignoring public opinions, because it is no different from a dictatorship. Thus, we hope that there will be an unbroken history by embracing each other's opinions in controversial situations. History is made by everyone, not purely by just one individual.

 

This article was written on November 7th, it does not reflect any news on this issue that has been reported since then. Also, this article reflects the reporter's individual opinion and is unrelated to the opinion of The Chung-Ang Herald

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