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U.S. Teachers: “Korea Is Not Emphasized Enough in Textbooks”

U.S. Teachers: “Korea Is Not Emphasized Enough in Textbooks”

Posted July. 29, 2005 03:04,   


On the afternoon of July 27, 25 U.S. high school teachers were eagerly listening to a summer lecture on the subject of “Korea and the Silk Road” sponsored by the Korea Society in New York.

As Richard McBright, a professor of Washington university started to explain General Go Seon-ji, who came from Goguryeo and conquered Saracens as a Tang General, Priest Hyecho, Jang Bo-go the Sea King, and Seol Chong, son of Saint Wonhyo, they meticulously took notes, raised their hands, and asked questions on what they didn’t understand. They teach subjects such as society, world history and geography.

What do American students learn about Korea in school and what status does a lecture on Korea have during classes?

We met the teachers after an afternoon session.

“The importance of Korea in American textbooks is too low compared to that of China and Japan. Not only students but also teachers don’t know much about Korea so, they can’t teach about it as much.

Every one of them gave us the same answer. Korean history in U.S. textbooks is dealt with in less than one page and all that is mentioned in the books is mostly about the Korean War. They said what U.S. students remember about Korea is that it is located about between China and Japan and went through a civil war called the Korean war.

However, they said that the recent atmosphere where interest in China has overpaced that of Japan as the northeast Asian economies rise is rapidly growing, and that people are much more interested in Korea than in the past.

Steve Boder, a teacher at Desert Mountain High School in Arizona, said, “While the northeast economies are emerging, U.S. students should know more about the region so that they can do business and trade with countries or businesses in the region in the future. A while ago, a special course, “northeast Asia research,” was established in our school and we are teaching about Korea in it.”

They said they are teaching about Korea partly in an Advanced Placement course where participating students can study college courses and be awarded college credit.

A teacher showed a cellular phone made by Samsung Electronics and added that students are getting interested in Korea when they see cellular phones and cars made in Korea.

When our journalist told them Korea’s GDP ranks 11th in the world, they looked very surprised.

China and Japan’s national efforts to influence teachers have already sunk in. Coney Hergens, a society teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico said, “I also participated in programs sponsored by the Japanese and Chinese governments before I attended a Korean program this summer. I found it interesting that the three countries explained the same events from each country’s perspective.

He added, “I’ve already known about Korea’s economic development, but I learned for the first time in this lecture that Korea played an important role in the world history by actively engaging in trade through the Silk Road.

Jong sik Kong kong@donga.com