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[Editorial] Textbooks Are Government Gazettes?

Posted August. 01, 2002 22:12,   


The high school textbooks for the modern Korean history, which private companies publish, have raised the public anger by the prejudiced description for the Kim Dae-jung government. In addition, it transpired that the government-publishing Korean history textbooks for middle and high school students also focus mainly on the achievements of this government. In the latter case, the harm possibly caused by the bias is not comparable to that caused by the privately published textbooks. First, in the latter case, textbooks are published by a government agency, and, secondly, all students have to buy these books. In other words, the government has put itself up on the front line in teaching students biased history.

We focus on the similarity in describing history in two kinds of textbooks. In both cases, previous administrations are evaluated in terms of failures as well as achievements. But in description of the current Kim administration, the balance is heavily tipped for the achievement side. We suspect of some kind of rule in dealing with the modern history.

The incidents give an opportunity to overhaul the system regarding textbook publication. First, we should pay our attention to the possibility of the repetition as long as the textbooks deal with the government still in power. We have plenty of precedents where an administration in the past including the Park regime manipulated the textbooks into a sort of government gazettes. Thus, the most important thing is to set up a principle, under which no textbooks shall be allowed to deal with the incumbent government. This principle fits into the principle in history-description that prohibits any form of evaluation of the government in power. It will also root out the possibility that the history textbook might fall into a media for government propaganda.

The government should get the bottom of this matter. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD), contrary to its promise to hold the people responsible accountable, has done nothing. It even has not disclosed the names of the members who reviewed the textbooks. Biased textbooks passed muster through the government screening. That is why they should be held accountable. The excuses by the MEHRD such as protection of privacy are not convincing at all. The excuses do not come before the goals that the Ministry itself is pursuing such as transparent and responsible administration. Rather, we get the feeling that the Ministry is hiding something from us.