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Patriot Yoo Gwan-soon’ missing from history textbooks

Posted August. 30, 2014 04:43,   


RTV, public access television channel, aired "Hundred Years’ War in Korea," a documentary produced by the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities last year that critically describes the lives of late former Presidents Rhee Syng-man and Park Chung-hee. The Korea Communications Commission issued a ruling that calls for disciplinary action and warnings against people involved in airing, saying that the documentary only quoted negative views against the two former presidents, distorted facts and thus defamed them by using lewd expressions. In a lawsuit aimed at lifting the commission’s sanctions that RTV filed against the commission, the Seoul Administrative Court issued a ruling against the broadcaster, saying that the documentary "Hundred Years’ War" distorted facts and assessment on the former presidents and thus defamed them by including speculations, exaggerations and conclusive expressions.

Of eight Korean history textbooks for high schools, four including Kumsung Publishing, Doosan Dong-A, Mirae-N, and Chunjae Education failed to address patriot Yoo Gwan-soon in sections describing March 1 (1919) Independence Movement, causing controversy. The writers made excuse by saying “Since the overall flow is important, we did not write on Yoo Gwan-sun who all the people know about,” or “The number of pages was not sufficient enough to include her.” They thus claim that they did not rule out accounts of her because she received support from American missionary or because she was a figure who was discovered by pro-Japanese people, as some claim.

The 17-year-old spearheaded the March 1 Independence Movement in her hometown of Cheonan in South Chungcheong, was arrested by Japanese colonialists, and suffered torture before dying in prison. When the Yoo Gwan-soon Commemoration Association was launched in 1947, the organization was endorsed by Seo Jae-pil, Rhee Syng-man, Kim Gu, Lee Shi-yeong, Kim Gyu-shik, and Choi Hyeon-bae. At an inaugural ceremony for a monument honoring Yoo Gwan-soon and 21 patriots held at Aunae Market in Byeongcheon, South Chungcheong Province in the same year, Kim Gu and Lee Shi-yeong delivered speeches in commemoration of her. However, at a forum, Prof. Kim Jeong-in at Chuncheon National University of Education claimed, “Yoo Gwan-soon was unearthed and made a heroine after Korea’s liberation by Park In-deok, who had history of siding with Japanese colonialists, and thus has been excluded from textbooks.”

There were allegations that most of the textbooks lacking accounts on Yoo positively describe the North Korean regime, while negatively presenting Rhee Syng-man, Park Chung-hee, and the Republic of Korea, which caused controversy. North Korea’s textbooks that only include descriptions about North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung’s independence fight against Japan naturally exclude records on Yoo. As such, analysts say that left-leaning textbooks in the South are being affected by North Korean textbooks. Even if the government maintains the review and approval system for history textbooks, it needs to reinforce the review process to ensure that important presentations such as those on Yoo are not omitted.