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The Carletonian

“One history” textbook controversy crosses Pacific

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On Tuesday, Carleton students protested the South Korean government’s decision to publish and circulate a state-sanctioned history textbook. The group asked students to take a picture with a sign declaring their opposition to South Korea’s decision, which would then be posted on Facebook.

“We want to let the South Korean government know what students in the United States think about this issue,” Jinhyun Lee ‘16 said, who organized the protest.

The South Korean government’s decision to issue state history textbooks emerges from Northeast Asia’s complicated history, politics, and tensions. This decision is only one point in a long line of government attempts at history protectionism. South Korean President Park Guenhye herself accused Japan of sanitizing its history to suit nationalistic aims. She touts the decision as an “attempt to arm young Koreans with ‘correct historical views and values,’” a necessary protection of South Korea’s history and thus interests from other nations.

President Park’s personal history and political motives call her stated aim into question. Under the dictatorship of President Park Chung-hee, Ms. Park’s father, the government made a similar attempt to push a state-controlled history. Among other “corrections,” Mr. Park characterized the coup that brought him to power in 1961 as a revolution. Many see Ms. Park’s decision as a continuation of her father’s legacy. Conservative critics of the current history textbooks cite the harsh depiction of Ms. Park’s father and other military dictators among their complaints.

“If you only teach the good sides of a nation, will st dents be able to evaluate how their nation is really run?” Jinhyun Lee asked.

South Korea is an ocean and thousands of miles from Northfield, but that separation is insignificant. As Jinhyun Lee and his organizers affirmed on Tuesday, protest continues to serve an integral part of the democratic process.

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