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(LEAD) S. Korea pushing to publish state history textbooks

All News 19:14 October 07, 2015

(ATTN: RECASTS through with government's plan; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- The government plans to publish state history textbooks for secondary school students to address an ideological bias in current textbooks, an Education Ministry official said Wednesday, amid outcry from liberals.

"There are growing demands for balanced textbooks," the official said, requesting anonymity. He added the government is moving toward a system in which the government publishes state history textbooks.

The Ministry of Education has said it will announce next week the change in the system for the publication of the history textbooks.

Currently, eight private publishing companies print history textbooks after winning approval from the government. Middle and high schools may choose from any of the eight textbooks.

The ruling Saenuri Party is also pushing to establish a body responsible for the publication of Korean history textbooks.

The body would select the writers of the history textbooks and a separate deliberation committee would review their contents before printing the textbooks.

Also Wednesday, the presidential office stressed the need to publish balanced Korean history textbooks for students, citing factual errors and an ideological bias in current textbooks.

The government and the ruling Saenuri Party have said most of the history textbooks for secondary school students were written from a left-leaning view of recent history.

Last year, President Park Geun-hye called on the Education Ministry to ensure that history textbooks are written without bias, noting it is very important to ensure students have a balanced recognition of history.

Park's comment "is the final stance of Cheong Wa Dae and its position remains unchanged," a senior presidential official said, referring to the name of South Korea's presidential office.

The official, however, tried not to get involved in an ongoing debate over history textbooks, saying the ruling party and the Education Ministry should decide over whether the government should publish Korean history textbooks.

Rep. Kim Moo-sung, the chairman of the ruling party, said publishers consistently write history books based on an anti-South Korean perspective, noting most history books educate students about North Korea's "juche," or self-reliance ideology.

"It seems they intend to teach students a popular revolution based on a left-leaning perspective of history," Kim said in a meeting with party's senior members.

He also said left-leaning history textbooks can instill in the students a sense of defeatism and blame all problems on society and the government.

A survey of soldiers showed that more than half of the respondents said the United States is South Korea's key enemy and they believe the 1950-53 Korean War started with South Korea's invasion of North Korea, Rep. Rhee In-je, a senior lawmaker of the ruling party, said.

"This is the statistics that reminds us once again how important it is to correct history education," said Rhee.

North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, starting the Korean War that ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of professors and teachers as well as liberals voiced their opposition to the government's plan.

Meanwhile, conservative civic groups support the plan, arguing that most textbooks being circulated are left-leaning.

Rep. Moon Jae-in, head of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, vowed to take actions against the government move to publish state history textbooks.

The government published state history textbooks from 1973 to 2009. In 2010, the government began allowing state-sanctioned private publishing companies to print history textbooks.

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