S Korea leader Moon scraps state-issued history books

South Korean presidential challenger Moon Jae-In pictured during a rally in Seoul on 8 MayImage copyright
EPA

Image caption

Moon Jae-in said history education should not be used for political purposes

South Korea’s new president says he is scrapping government-authored history textbooks ordered by his predecessor.

They symbolised “outdated and one-sided” history education, an aide said.

The conservative government of Park Geun-hye said the books were needed to correct left-wing bias. The move caused anger and most schools refused them.

Moon Jae-in, a liberal and former human rights lawyer, was elected on Tuesday. Ms Park is in prison awaiting trial on corruption charges.

Scrapping the textbooks was one of Mr Moon’s campaign pledges.

The controversial books were ordered in late 2015 and unveiled in January 2017.

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AFP/Getty

Image caption

There were protests in South Korea over the books, including this one by retired teachers in November 2015

Hwang Woo-yea, the education minister under Ms Park, said that they were intended to teach “the proud history of South Korea, which has achieved both democratisation and industrialisation in the shortest time in the world history”.

Other administration officials said they were needed because existing textbooks were insufficiently critical of North Korea.

But critics of the project accused Ms Park’s administration of trying to sanitise the rule of her father, dictator Park Chung-hee.

The government initially said that schools could only use the government-authored textbook, but rolled back on this plan in late 2016.

A spokesman for Mr Moon said the new president believed “history education must no longer be used for political purposes”.

History – and how it is taught – is a sensitive issue across East Asia. Rival versions of events fuel territorial disputes, bilateral mistrust and diplomatic rifts.

S Korea leader Moon scraps state-issued history books}

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