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Saturday, October 17, 2015, 13:59

S Korean scholars boycott state-issued textbook project

By Associated Press

S Korean scholars boycott state-issued textbook project
South Korean students wearing traditional costumes wave national flags during celebrations of Independence Movement Day in Seoul on March 1, 2015 marking the anniversary of the country's 1919 uprising against the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial rule. ( AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE)

SEOUL, South Korea — Hundreds of South Korean scholars have declared they are boycotting the writing of state-issued history textbooks out of concern that they will teach distorted views on the country's recent history.

President Park Geun-hye's government plans to require middle and high schools to use textbooks edited by the government after 2017, instead of allowing schools to choose from eight private publishers, as is currently the case.

South Korea's move toward state-issued textbooks is the latest in a series of efforts by conservative leaders in Seoul and Tokyo to shape school history books to reflect their political views, and has sparked fierce criticism from academics and opposition parties.

Professors from more than 20 South Korean universities said they would not contribute to the textbooks because they believe the government is moving to soften descriptions of South Korea's brutal dictatorships that preceded a bloody transition toward democracy in the 1980s. The Korean History Research Association, the country's largest group of historians with nearly 800 members, has declared it won't participate in the writing process.

Kang Sun-a, a spokeswoman of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said that the directive to revert to state-issued history textbooks has "instantly taken the country back to the Cold War period."

In announcing the controversial plans on Monday, Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea argued that the current history textbooks are too left-leaning and urged for the need of school books that were "objective" and "balanced."

Park, the president, is the daughter of slain military dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea in the 1960s and 70s, and whose legacy as a successful economic strategist is marred by brutal records of civilian oppression.

Before leaving for her current trip to the United States, Park defended the move toward state-issued textbooks by saying history classes must inspire "pride" in students for being South Korean citizens.

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