South Korean history textbooks undergo significant changes

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School textbooks have changed tremendously since 1956 when the nation established a modern educational system after its liberation from Japanese colonial rule. The depiction of South Korea’s modern history has been revised with successive administrations and the nation’s political evolution toward democracy to include changes in orthography, new songs, scientific discoveries and the arts.

In particular, history textbooks have been subject to frequent changes, as they carry ``time.’’ However, the changes did not only regard historical events but also explanations and perspectives on historical facts.

``Textbook revisions were mainly a result of changes in the purpose of history education and how historical facts were interpreted,’’ said Choi Sang-hoon, president of the Korean Association of History Education.

``In the past, history education focused on the memorization of facts and on instilling patriotism, while it now mainly concentrates on helping students set up proper historical views,’’ he said.

The academic background of textbook writers and the writers’ biases also have an influence on the content of textbooks, Choi said, adding that the intention of educational authorities to justify an ideology are reflected in the writers they select.

Rep. Lee In-young of the ruling Uri Party surveyed high school history textbooks published from 1960 through 2002 by the government and publishing companies.

Textbooks could not include the April 3, 1948 rebellion, an uprising on Cheju Island, until 1976 under the authoritarian regimes of former Presidents Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee.

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