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Anonymous state-authored textbooks

Posted October. 26, 2015 11:36,   


The high school Korean history textbook, which was published last by the national government in 1996, clearly contains the names of nine authors. Since 1974 when the first Korean history textbook was published by the government, there has never been a case where authors were not identified because the textbook was made by the government. However, controversy began when Kim Jeong-bae, the head of the National Institute of Korean History, said at the National Assembly’s Special Committee on the Northeast Asia History Distortions on Friday, “If textbook authors decline to be unveiled, we cannot release their identify.”

Although a state history textbook is not an appropriate solution, the government has a strong will to push for it. However, the names of authors must be identified in the textbook as authors should write a textbook based with their conscience. Unveiling the names of authors is a minimum measure that can hold a textbook written by the government in check. Under dictatorship, state-authored textbooks included praise for the dictatorship. Yoon Byeong-seok, honorary professor of Inha University who wrote modern Korean history back then, says he has never written it. In fact, it was written by the state hidden in anonymity. This could be a concern when history textbooks are published by the state.

We know Kim’s remark was made out of desperation. After it was announced that history textbooks will be authored by the government, some history professors at several universities and associations said they would refuse to write a history textbook. It is hilarious that they who were not asked to write textbooks refuse to write one. It is said that the scholars who refused to write textbook have never written a textbook. It seems that they are trying to create an environment where they would ostracize those who want to participate in writing state-authored textbooks. It is a childish behavior that professors who are supposed to respect individuals’ intention should avoid doing.

If history textbooks are published by the government, the names of authors will be disclosed. The idea of not releasing their identify itself, however, implies the government’s defeat to some extent. It certainly is not a good idea that authors write history textbooks without confidence while unveiling their names. Among intellectuals, an overwhelmingly large number of people oppose state-authored textbooks. Even in the general public, more people oppose the idea now. President Park Geun-hye needs to think about it again before finalizing the plan in the upcoming speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday.