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Groups protest early state textbooks

Feb 17,2017
Teachers and civic groups are rallying against some South Gyeongsang headmasters’ allegedly single-handed decisions to volunteer their schools to use the controversial state-authored history textbooks this year, before they officially go into use in 2018.

Some 10 members of the branch office of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang, rallied in front of Munmyeong High School on Thursday.

“Headmaster Kim Tae-dong submitted the school as an experimental school to test out the state-authored history textbooks,” said a member of the branch office. “He said he submitted the application via official means and followed procedures set out by the North Gyeongsang Education Office. He said he did so because he thinks the project worthwhile.”

But the headmaster’s decision, along with that of Gyeongbuk Aviation High School and Osang High School in the province, has caused an outcry from some members of the teachers’ union.

“Three private high schools have applied to become experimental schools to test the state-authored history textbooks a year before they are officially launched,” the union said in its press release on Thursday.

“It is completely incomprehensible that private schools would want to teach students with textbooks that paint a one-sided picture of the dictatorship [of former President Park Chung Hee], and are altogether a one-sided interpretation of the nation’s history by the Park Geun-hye administration,” the union added.

“The fault lies almost entirely with Lee Young-woo, head of the North Gyeongsang Education Office, who dropped a regulation concerning the experimental school applications, “ it went on, “whereby each school needed to secure an agreement of at least 80 percent of the staff to submit an application.”

Gyeongbuk Aviation High School and Osang High School submitted their applications without first running the idea by their boards of directors.

At a Munmyeong High School board meeting, a member of the teachers’ union said, “The headmaster and a few senior faculty members at the school made a one-sided decision very quickly without opening up the floor for discussions.”

The union is planning on holding subsequent rallies at schools in North Gyeongsang that sign up to become experimental schools for the state-authored textbooks.

The state-authored history textbooks, which were heatedly debated between liberals and conservatives, came in for additional criticism after President Park Geun-hye, daughter of former President Park Chung Hee, became embroiled in a corruption and power abuse scandal that led to her impeachment in December. The textbooks were an initiative of her administration.

BY KIM JUNG-SEOK [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]