South Korea’s government has decided to put the production of middle and high school history textbooks under state control. This means that every single student will use the same history textbook. This plan to overhaul the textbook system was driven by the aftermath of a scandal in 2013, in which the Ministry of Education approved a textbook that depicted a distorted view of Korean history.
The minister of the Ministry of Education commented regarding the change, “This was an inevitable choice in order to straighten out historical errors and end the social dispute caused by ideological bias in the textbooks.” This move would end the current system that allows schools to choose their own textbooks from private publishing companies.
However, there has been some disagreements regarding the change. The change, believed to have been politically motivated by opposition makers, has caught the eye of a democratic party of Korea (New Politics Alliance for Democracy), which insists that, “The Park government is trying to turn history books into government-controlled ones that glorify Japan and dictatorship.” Despite this argument, a prime point that has been brought up to refute this claim was that the new history textbook would prevent children from developing sympathy for North Korea and promote national unity in South Korea.
Another issue at hand was the source of the 4.4 billion budget for the production of the new textbooks. The budget is currently known to have come out of the government’s reserve fund. The very reserve fund that the Korean law allows the government to set aside up to 1 percent of for emergency use. The opposing democratic party (New Politics Alliance for Democracy) once again lambasted this move by saying “[The government] is using tax money set aside for situations like natural disasters to change the textbook for the worse. … The Park Geun-hye administration is undermining the parliament’s rights to set the budget,”
Despite talks amongst the parties, the remaining stages of the plan will continue and the use of the new textbook will be officially implemented starting February 2017.
– Hyun Jung Choi (‘16)