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[Opinion] Shocking Views on the Korean War

Posted October. 07, 2008 03:22,   


When the Korea Military Academy in 2004 asked its incoming cadet class to name South Korea’s main enemy, then academy president Kim Chung-bae was shocked by their answers. Thirty-four percent of 250 cadets named the United States, while only 33 percent said North Korea. Kim called the result unbelievable since the young cadets, who were supposed to defend the country against the North’s threat, did not know whom to fight.

A recent survey conducted by two conservative groups on elementary students was no less astonishing. Polling 1,955 students in Seoul on who they thought started the Korean War, 35.1 percent said South Korea. So more than a third of the students believe South Korea started the war, a result which is simply shocking. Their awareness poured cold water on those who pledged not to let North Korea provoke a second Korean War on the 60th anniversary of the South Korean armed forces a few days ago.

The cadets in 2004 said their leftist teachers in middle and high school taught them that Washington was trying to dominate Seoul. It is hard to deny that the national teachers’ union is again to blame for incorrect teaching of students. Kim Kwang-dong, a senior researcher at one of the conservative groups which conducted the poll, said, “Since no subject covers the Korean War in elementary school, the students must have been influenced by leftist teachers.” Considering that 15.5 percent of public school teachers in Seoul are members of the union, his comments seem persuasive.

Kim Chung-bae got help from history experts to offer a balanced education to cadets who were commissioned as second lieutenants in March. They no longer consider the United States the country’s main enemy. They understand that North Korea is the culprit who started the Korean War that South Korea must keep an eye on while pursuing coordination and reciprocity in this post-Cold War era. A proper education can correct erroneous perceptions of the Korean War among children. In this regard, Korean society should actively join this campaign, along with the government’s effort to revise history textbooks.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam, (hnbhang@donga.com)