Posted June. 18, 2013 06:00,
President Park Geun-hye said Monday, "A recent media survey on teenagers` history awareness showed 69 percent of respondents saying South Korea invaded North Korea in the Korean War," adding "Distortion of truth and history at schools should never happen."
At a meeting with her senior secretaries, President Park said, "History is soul of people, and I think this is a very serious problem."
President Park added, "This shows that something is wrong with our education system. This issue can`t be overlooked and the new government will correct it. Please devise measures for the sake of right history education."
Lee Jung-hyun, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs, said, "We are not talking about thousands of years ago. If young people are wrong, older people should be blamed and thus ponder on it deeply," adding, "Not only the president, but the public must have been shocked. When a thing is wrong it must be corrected."
President Park has been emphasizing the need for proper awareness of history by strongly criticizing Japanese history distortion. When she met CEO John Hamre of U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies last month, she said, "According to a historian, territory is body of a human being and history is soul. (Japan`s history distortion is) is stabbing the wounds of soul." June is the month of paying tribute to deceased patriots, and President Park may have taken this as a chance to stress the need for proper history awareness.
○ Continuous disputes on history education
President Park`s remarks come as disputes on textbooks at schools continue while some teachers teach distorted history.
Disputes on history textbooks` political bias are nothing new. Latest key example is dispute over verifying textbooks written by scholars at the conservative Association of Korean Contemporary History.
In 2011, opinions were divided on the use of terms "democracy" and "free democracy." In 2004, parliament`s audit that Geumsung Publishing`s modern history textbook was left wing oriented had education ministry order 206 corrections on the book, which aroused conflict.
Government officials` interests were reflected on verification of high school textbooks, also triggering ripple effect. Disputes also rose in 2002 at the seventh education process when the high school modern history textbook was said to critically write about the immediate previous Kim Young-sam administration and glossed over the Kim Dae-jung administration. Verification members submitted resignation and four modern history textbooks were corrected.
Some teachers forcing distorted history views is also a problem. Civic group Blue Union recently said students are receiving a politically biased education and released data registered at the complaints center on biased teaching. The data included teachers saying former President Rhee Syng-man was persuaded by the U.S. after liberation and induced division of South and North Korea, while others said the Cheonan naval vessel sinking was due to President Lee Myung-bak.
Professor Cho Jeon-hyeong at Incheon University and Professor Lee Myeong-hee at Kongju University conducted a survey of 1,000 middle and high school students, and found 38.5 percent of middle school students and 56.6 percent of high school students hearing teachers` personal political views.
○ Both quality and quantity history education should be pursued
Claims that the absolute quantity of history education should be expanded are getting support to improve the situation. Middle and high school teachers say the concentrated curriculum system has weakened students` interest and thus it is difficult to properly promote history education.
With college exam having research course as option from 2005, the number of students choosing Korean history is shrinking fast. The Korean history class selection ratio was 27.7 percent in 2005 but fell to 6.9 percent in 2012. Seoul National University designated Korean history as a required subject and more students are avoiding the course in response.
Teachers` efforts to guarantee neutrality of history education should be strengthened. Kim Moo-seong, spokesman of Korean Federation of Teachers` Associations, said, "Considering that students tend to accept teachers` personal opinions as facts, teachers should be prudent in expressing their personal views on historical facts."