On November third, the Education Ministry made its final public notice that it would provide standardized Korean history textbooks for middle and high schools starting from 2017.
Throughout society the decision sparked heated debate, which is expected to continue in the new year.
Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea said in a briefing that the government made the decision after judging that it was impossible to provide accurate history textbooks under the current system.
He said history textbooks had provoked division and social conflict by serving as a tool in ideological debates. He said the government decided to issue standardized history textbooks to realize national unity by blocking social chaos and normalizing history education.
The government’s decision has come under fire from various societal circles, including historians. Rallies protesting the decision have been held and some are working to write alternative textbooks.
The issue of history textbooks has been a topic of heated debate for some time. Supporters of standardized textbooks say the current books are distorted and tend to be ideologically biased. Those who oppose the new books say the government will distort the content to suit its taste and disrupt diversity in learning.
The Education Ministry has designated the National Institute of Korean History as the agency charged with producing the new textbooks. The institute has selected 47 authors who will compile the books.
The compilation work will run for a year and is set to end at the end of next November. Auditing work is set for next December. The new books will be provided from March 2017.