Textbook publishers instructed to remove Rep. Do's poems
Rep. Do Jong-hwan
By Na Jeong-ju
A government-funded educational institute has recommended that textbook publishers remove poems written by a poet-turned-opposition lawmaker from middle school textbooks to be published next year.
The move drew fierce protests from the lawmaker, Do Jong-hwan of the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP), as well as the association of poets.
The Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) said Monday it is inappropriate to have Do’s poems in the textbooks because he became a politician. His poems and essays appear in eight of 16 Korean language and literature textbooks for middle school students.
“We’ve asked publishers to remove Do’s works from textbooks because we believe that school books should be politically neutral,” a KICE spokesman said. “That’s based on a decision by our textbook screening panel. It’s not appropriate to have students learn works by a certain politician.”
Do denounced the KICE decision, saying he wrote literary works, not political ones. He said he is discussing the matter with the Korea Writers’ Association in order to issue an official statement in protest.
“I was a lyrical poet. My works are far from political,” Do said.
The 57-year-old became a DUP lawmaker during the April parliamentary elections when he was selected as a proportional representative candidate. He is currently the spokesman for DUP lawmaker Moon Jae-in, a presidential hopeful.
Lee Si-young, chairman of the writers’ association, blamed KICE and the education ministry for conducting a “witch-hunt” for Do.
“Textbook publishers have voluntarily carried Do’s work because he is a respected poet and writer. However, the education ministry is now pressuring them to remove his poetry from textbooks. It is politically motivated,” Lee said.
Additionally, he pointed out that KICE and the education ministry took little action regarding the publication of poems written by Kim Chun-soo, who served as a ruling party lawmaker in the Chun Doo-hwan government.
“Kim’s poems are still in textbooks. So, I don’t understand why they are taking issue with Do’s poems,” he said.
Publishers said they have no choice but to reflect KICE’s opinions because it has full authority on textbook approval. KICE said it will decide whether to approve the textbooks in August. Only approved textbooks will be available to use in schools next year.
The KICE said it has also asked publishers to revise parts in textbooks concerning Jasmine Lee, the Philippine-born naturalized Korean citizen who became a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker.
“We recommended this because political neutrality is one of the key standards for textbook publishers,” the KICE spokesman said.