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Seoul Court, Ministry at Odds Over History Textbook

Posted September. 03, 2009 08:22,   


The publisher of a disputed left-leaning textbook on modern Korean history can produce and distribute it while the Supreme Court reviews the ban on the textbook.

Kumsung Publishing was ordered by the Seoul Central District Court to stop publishing and distributing its textbook yesterday. The company said, however, that it will appeal and the Education, Science and Technology Ministry will allow the textbook’s publishing and distribution until the Supreme Court delivers its final ruling.

On the lawsuit filed by five professors at Korea National University of Education who co-authored the book against Kumsung and the Korea Authorized Textbook Co. for violating copyright and personal rights, the Seoul court said yesterday, “The accused violated the authors’ rights by arbitrarily revising the textbook without their consent.”

The publisher was ordered to pay four million won (3,200 U.S. dollars) to each of the five authors in damages.

Since the court also ordered a provisional execution of the ruling, the publication and distribution of the textbook will be immediately suspended at the plaintiffs’ request. Copies of the textbooks in circulation, however, will not be recalled because the authors did not request one.

Further trouble is expected because the Education Ministry said it found no reason to halt the publication, sale and distribution of the textbook before the final ruling from the Supreme Court.

The textbook was adopted by 919 high schools nationwide and accounts for 43 percent of the history textbooks in use in the country. It will be used until 2011 and be replaced with a new version in 2012.

The ministry said, “If a court rules in favor of the authors before 2011, we will ask the company to revise the content. The revision, however, will be confirmed through deliberation by experts.”

In December last year, the ministry said 206 items in six textbooks on modern Korean history criticized for left-leaning approaches will be revised in time for the spring semester in April next year.

The authors then filed their lawsuit to prevent the textbooks from being amended without their consent.

The chief civil division of the Seoul court dropped the case in January, but another division in charge of the trial handed down a different ruling.

“The publishing contract made between Kumsung Publishing and (one of the authors) Kim (Han-jong) in 2001 clearly stipulates that the authors should cooperate with the Education Ministry when a revision is needed,” the court said. “Failure to comply with the terms, however, doesn’t mean that the company is allowed to amend the textbook without the author’s consent.”

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