Rewriting of textbook
Politics, ideology can never change historical facts
The government has decided to push ahead with history textbooks divorced from most historians’ views ― and some historical facts.
There are at least three major problems, or bones of contention, in the education ministry’s new guidelines for history books that will be used at middle schools from 2013.
They say, for instance, South Korea is the only government on the Korean Peninsula recognized as legitimate by the United Nations. That the U.N. accepts South and North Korea as its members, however, shows it thinks both Koreas as legitimate. Even back in 1948, the global body said South Korea was the sole legitimate government … ``over that part of Korea,” apparently meaning the southern half.
The guideline also encourages the textbook writers not to use such words as ``dictatorial regime” and ``democratic uprising” and replace them with more vague expressions like ``dictatorial process.” This forces one to ask about the purpose of teaching history. Only when these young students learn, clearly and specifically, about historical wrongs committed by their ancestors, can they avoid repeating the same mistakes when they grow up.
Former Presidents Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee have their bright and dark sides. Historians’ duty is to make fair evaluations of both aspects, not exaggerate one and belittle the other. We can’t help but suspect one of the biggest beneficiaries of this rewriting of textbooks might be the ruling camp’s standard-bearer, Rep. Park Geun-hye.
The ministry, urged by the ``New Right” conservatives, also replaced the term ``democracy” with ``liberal democracy” in describing Korea’s state system. This page endorsed liberal democracy but in its broad meaning, not in narrow terms as meant by this administration.
Construed in limited sense, liberal democracy is but one of the many forms of democracy or a platform of political groups, including a Russian ultra-rightist party. The conservatives say the nation has to differentiate from a people’s democracy such as the one in North Korea. Yet why South Korea should be conscious of the communist state in the North so excessively when establishing its own state system? Isn’t it another expression of the ``red complex”? The Constitution mentions about just the ``principles of freedom and democracy,” not ``liberal democracy.”
All this is a sad legacy of Korea’s tumultuous modern history, marred by colonization, fratricidal war and national division.
Why don’t they just write and teach that South Korea had to undergo ``developmental dictatorship” to compete and prevail over the totalitarian rival in the North in some phases of its modern history, and now that the game is almost over, the nation ought to pursue ``genuine” democracy?
Korea should allow neither its past historical pains nor the present greed of politicians to distort the nation’s history. Most pitiful are the younger generations if they have to restudy history whenever the political power changes from left to right or the other way around.
Seoul has told Tokyo to stop historical distortions and prevent young Japanese from falling into the same mistakes of the old. Korea’s political leaders don’t seem to be practicing what they preach.