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Korean Textbooks Make Little Mention of Dokdo

Posted July. 16, 2008 08:17,   


The country’s textbooks give scant information on the disputed Dokdo islets, and worry is growing over the Korean government’s lukewarm reaction to Japan’s latest claim to the islets.

Seoul’s plan to strengthen education on historical distortions on East Asia including Dokdo is expected to take effect in 2012, when East Asian history will debut as a high school subject across the nation.

▽ No specific historical description of Dokdo

Korean textbooks simply provide rough descriptions of the islets and fail to give students systematic historical information.

In elementary school textbooks, Dokdo is simply presented through photos and pictures of guards on the rocky islets. Middle school history textbooks offer descriptions about Dokdo limited to historical facts from the Joseon Dynasty, such as historical movements involving the islets and Japan’s acknowledgement of Dokdo as Joseon territory in 1696.

The historical importance and territorial sovereignty of the islets are often dismissed in most Korean textbooks on social science. Depending on the curriculum, certain history textbooks in high school focusing on Korea-Japan relations give short historical facts about the islets during the Three Kingdoms and Joseon eras.

About six publishers of modern Korean history textbooks cover Dokdo in descriptions of national struggles against Japanese colonial rule, but fail to give more detailed information. Mention of the islets comprise a simple chronicle and short historical facts that the Korean Empire took over Dokdo in 1900, when it raised the status of Ulleung island, and that Japan unilaterally claimed sovereignty over the islets in 1905.

▽ Comprehensive historical data needed

History teachers say textbook revisions should keep up with the historical situation of the times. Given Japan’s latest move to claim the islets, including the use of diplomatic documents and parliamentary speeches, teachers in Korea are urging more active measures to counter Japan’s offensive.

Kim Hong-seon, a history teacher at a Seoul high school, said, “Textbooks (in Korea) only repeat simple facts and historical changes (about Dokdo) without going much into recent Japanese claims. They should contain more detailed information on the Japanese move to twist history, international law and the response from the international community to provide students with more comprehensive information.”

Others suggest more aggressive cooperation with Japanese textbook publishers given the time required to revise textbooks.

Kim Yeong-seok, principal of Seonju Middle School in North Gyeongsang Province, said, “Though the Northeast Asian History Foundation has published information on the Dokdo islets, the data hasn’t been fully utilized in class. To resolve the problem, the Education Ministry needs to distribute reference books reflecting the historical dispute over Dokdo and intensify teacher training to enhance awareness.”