On October 14, the student council of the Department of Korean History declared opposition to the Korean government’s plan to replace existing history textbooks with a government-authorized version. A signature campaign against the government’s proposal was conducted from October 14 to 20 throughout the University of Seoul (UOS), both on and offline. More than 1,500 signatures were collected from throughout the UOS community, including students, professors, and campus organizations.
The controversy surrounding history textbooks first emerged on October 12 when the government officially revealed its plan. The present Korean government stated that current history textbooks are leaning toward the left, which should be corrected to ensure a balanced perspective. However, a large amount of citizens, including middle and high school students who must study from the textbooks, and historians who write them, expressed opposition toward the plan, saying that history should not be prescribed by any authority.
The voice of opposition was also active within the UOS. All professors in the Department of Korean History declared their refusal to participate in writing such a textbook under government administration. In turn, professors from the College of Humanities also joined to display their objections. Apart from signing circulated petitions, the UOS students also expressed their opinions through posters and statements. Seong-min Kim (Dept. of International Relations, ’14) said, “There is a strong likelihood that history will be described according to the principles of capitalism under this government administration, thus including misguided content, such as justifying the past dictatorship, a catastrophic part of history in South Korea.”
Regardless of the national reverberation, however, the Korean government passed the plan and allocated 4.4 billion won for the project in its budget.