Textbooks on Past Offend South Korea’s Conservatives

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SEOUL, South Korea — To conservative critics, a widely used textbook’s version of how American and Soviet forces took control of Korea from Japanese colonialists in 1945 shows all that is wrong with the way South Korean history is taught to young people today.

The fact no one disputes is that, at the end of World War II, the Soviet military swept into northern Korea and installed a friendly Communist government while an American military administration assumed control in the south.

But then the high school textbook takes a direction that has angered conservatives. It contends that the Japanese occupation was followed not by a free, self-determining Korea, but by a divided peninsula dominated once again by foreign powers...

“Our liberation through the Allied forces’ victory prevented us from building a new country according to our own wishes,” it [states].

The critics include the government of President Lee Myung-bak, the conservative who came to power this year with a pledge to overturn a decade of liberal policies that he said had coddled North Korea and denigrated the American alliance — the alliance that liberals have accused of propping up South Korean dictators in the name of anti-Communism.

On Oct. 30, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology demanded that the authors of the Kumsung book and five other textbooks used in high schools delete or revise 55 sections that it said “undermine the legitimacy of the South Korean government.”

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