Posted October. 14, 2015 07:11,
President Park Geun-hye told her senior secretaries on Tuesday before she left for a state visit to the U.S., "Politicians should refrain from triggering unnecessary disputes regarding the state-controlled history textbook plan." She called for cooperation by the political circles toward creating a united public opinion on integrated history education at a time of difficulties. It is highly worrisome that President Park dismissed any debate concerning the issue as "unnecessary." It would be rather reasonable for politicians to argue pros and cons of such an important issue. In fact, it was the president who sparked the controversial issue by making such an abrupt decision.
The president alone pushed forward the plan so aggressively. Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea and Vice Education Minister Kim Jae-keun had opposed the plan at first, but turned in favor at the last moment. Kim Jung-bae, president of the National Institute of Korean History, was designated as the leader of the project, but ironically he had opposed a similar attempt back in 1973, under the Park Chung-hee administration. The Ministry of Education did not undergo any proper public hearing process other than holing a forum. Regardless of being right or wrong, President Park`s dogmatic leadership style is not desirable.
Even the Park Chung-hee administration consulted a number of renowned historians before publishing state-controlled textbooks by establishing a dedicated committee. At that time, there had already been movements to move away from the then dominant colonial view of history, which were coincidentally in line with the interest of the military-authoritarian Yushin regime. Things were completely different from the current situation where the majority of history experts are against the president`s decision.
It is true that Korea`s national history academia is less trusted today. The state-run history institute chief said, "The new history textbook will include more experts from politics, economics, and social science in writing the modern history section of the new textbook." This can be interpreted as an acknowledgement that a government-issued textbook will not be enough to correct the "left-leaning" of current textbooks if written only by historians.
Chairman Kim Moo-sung of the ruling Saenuri Party refused the suggestion of a 2+2 meeting by Chairman Moon Jae-in of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy Party. Both President Park and ruling party leader Kim seem stand firmly on history textbook plan. Does it mean the Korean public should have no say once any decision is made by the government?