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More professors oppose gov't plan to standardize history textbooks

Another group of professors urged the government to stop its plan to standardize history textbooks Wednesday, saying it is an act of weakening the country's democracy.

The call came in a statement released by 160 professors from Korea University opposing the plan being pushed by the government to change the system. The government has been raising the need to forge a common understanding of history in a country where people are divided ideologically.

Currently, eight private publishing companies print history textbooks after winning approval from the government. Middle and high schools then can choose any of the eight publishers' textbooks.

"It is not a simple question of history but of diversity, a crucial value in a democratic society," professor Kim Eon-jong said in a press conference at the university in Seoul.

He was explaining why professors from all across the university, including those from the business administration department to the literature department, participated in releasing the statement.

They argued the proposed system is an iconic child of the country's past military-backed regimes.

"What they call common understanding of history could be shaped by those holding the power," they added in the statement. 

"It is very regretful that the government did not discuss the issue with the experts in the field before pushing the plan," professor Kwon Nae-hyun said. "They are just following some politicians' words that suit their taste, ignoring the voices from civil society and academic circles."

Over the last month, a series of statements either supporting or opposing the plan have been released.

Last Wednesday, some 1,100 liberal scholars and researchers of history and history education released a press statement opposing the plan.

It followed similar statements from professors of history education at Seoul National University, history teachers at schools around the country, and educational superintendents of 14 cities and provinces earlier in the month.

Yet, conservative civic groups support the plan arguing that most textbooks circulated right now are left-leaning.

"To avoid students from being confused ideologically, government should publish a standardized history textbook," one of the groups said in a press conference Wednesday in central Seoul.

The Ministry of Education plans to make a decision on the issue by the end of the month. (Yonhap)