South Korean President Moon Jae In scraps state-issued history textbooks

South Korea's new President Moon Jae In electronically puts his signature to an order to scrap state-issued school history textbooks in his office at the presidential Blue House, on May 12, 2017.
South Korea's new President Moon Jae In electronically puts his signature to an order to scrap state-issued school history textbooks in his office at the presidential Blue House, on May 12, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's new President Moon Jae In on Friday (May 12) scrapped state-issued school history textbooks introduced by his ousted predecessor, saying they represented an "outdated and one-sided" view of the past, his office said.

The previous Park Geun Hye administration had introduced state-authored history textbooks at middle and high schools, arguing that some existing tomes reflected left-leaning and pro-North Korea ideologies.

Park's conservative government began publishing the new textbooks this year despite opposition from liberal critics, who saw them as an attempt to glorify the dictatorship of Park Chung Hee, late father of the impeached president.

"As efforts to normalise history education, the president has ordered the abolition of state-authored textbooks," said top presidential spokesman Yoon Young Chan, adding they "symbolise outdated and one-sided history education and attempts to divide the people".

Moon believed "history education must no longer be used for political purposes", Yoon said.

The previous government initially planned to make the state-authored textbooks as the only option available to educators but later said that schools would be able to choose between them and approved texts from commercial publishers.

Some 80 middle and high schools in South Korea, just 1.5 per cent of the total, had said they would adopt the state-issued books.