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Goguryeo History Classes Held in Schools

Posted September. 21, 2004 22:07,   


On Tuesday morning in a social studies class of 6th graders in Hannam Elementary School, the students began to sing a children’s song titled “100 Heroes of Korea.”

The teacher, Kim Bong-seok, pointed out that King Gwanggaeto is included in the lyrics of the song that the students had just sung, and proposed the class study the history of the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo. This has been a hot issue in Korean society after China started its attempt to absorb the history of Goguryeo into its own.

This class is part of a campaign that the Korean Federation of Teachers` Associations and the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union are carrying out from September 20 to 25 to raise awareness among elementary, middle, and high school students on the issue of China’s attempt to manipulate the history of Goguryeo. The textbook titled “The Grave Paintings of Goguryeo” is prepared by the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations.

Kim explained that observing the grave paintings of the Goguryeo Kingdom is an effective way to determine which country really inherited Goguryeo, because grave paintings show the lifestyle and culture of the society to which they belonged.

The first example was a wall painting that depicts a scene of ssirum, a traditional Korean wrestling match. Kim told the class that the people of Goguryeo practiced a sport that is very close to ssirum in current Korea and in the days of Joseon Dynasty, as pictured in Kim Hong-do’s painting, “Ssirum.”

Kim emphasized the fact that the clothes shown in a Goguryeo wall painting in ancient Goguryeo tombs resemble Korean traditional clothes like hanbok. Also, rice steamers and Korean floor heating systems, or ondols, seen in other grave paintings, clearly show that Goguryeo culture is very similar to Korean culture.

Kim insisted that when we look at the grave paintings by the people of Goguryeo, the cultural patterns of everyday life very much resemble those of modern-day Korea. “It is Korea, not China, who inherited the cultural heritage of Goguryeo,” Kim said.

One of the students, Kim Da-som, said that she was not sure to whom the history of Goguryeo belonged before the class, but that now, everything was clear for her. Choi Yu-na said that she will actively engage herself in informing the world of the fact that the history of Goguryeo is part of Korean history.

Nasan Baht, who came to Korea from Mongolia a year ago, attracted classmates’ attention by saying that he will teach his friends in Mongolia that the Goguryeo people are the ancestors of Koreans.

After writing letters to the people of Goguryeo at the end of the class, students wrote that from the class, they learned that Goguryeo people were very brave. Some wrote that they are ashamed of their lack of knowledge of Goguryeo.

Kim wrapped up the class by saying that it is very dangerous to develop an exclusive and chauvinistic patriotism. “Even if China tries to distort the history of Goguryeo, we should not think of China as a bad country. Though there are some conflicts between the two countries, we must not forget the fact that we are neighbors who will live in the 21st century as friends,” Kim concluded.

Na-Yeon Lee larosa@donga.com