The Park Geun-hye administration is planning to introduce the new state-authored history textbooks on Nov. 28 as scheduled despite the growing scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil. The unveiling of the history textbooks will be the first major activity of the Park administration since the outbreak of Choi gate.
The President has been taking steps to assuage the people's fury over the scandal by replacing her secretariat and appointing a new prime minister. None of these will have the desired outcome of regaining the people's trust if Park keeps up her unilateral governing style. Ignoring public opinion and charging ahead with the controversial textbook plan will be taken as a sign that Park is determined to keep her usual ways even in the post-Choi gate period.
The legitimacy of Park's state textbook plan is being seriously questioned by the people who are furious with Choi's alleged meddling in government affairs. After the President admitted that her citizen friend had helped her with presidential speeches and PR activities, more people are questioning whether the textbook plan, among a host of Park's policies, had something to do with Choi.
The people's doubts are not groundless, since the plan was initiated by Park's former senior secretary for education and culture Kim Sang-ryul who is a relative of one of Choi's close business associates, Cha Eun-taek. Park has made several irrational remarks, such as "Without proper history education, people's souls will become abnormal," to justify her policy for a uniform education in history. Many now believe that Choi, who has edited Park's speeches, was behind such incomprehensible comments. The textbook plan is now being mocked as "Soon-sil textbooks" by critics in the opposition bloc and academia.
A huge civic movement is surfacing once again against the state textbooks. This week, a network of 47 history-related institutions held a press conference, calling on the government to discard the plan.
Under these circumstances, it was highly inappropriate that the Education Minister Lee Joon-sik appeared at the National Assembly Tuesday and reiterated the consistent implementation of the textbook plan.
The state textbooks have already been contested by teachers, students and people from all sectors, not to mention foreign scholars and media, for aiming to reinforce a single view of history in secondary schools and backtracking Korea's hard-won democracy.
Even before Choi gate erupted, the history textbooks were considered by many as one of Park's worst policy decisions. If the Park administration sticks to its textbook plan, it will only aggravate negative public sentiment toward her administration. One of the first things a new prime mister should do is normalize history education policies that have been distorted during the Park presidency.