Some 56.8 percent of secondary school students do not know which year the Korean War broke out, while 13.5 percent said the U.S. started the Korean War and 13.4 percent Japan. This is the result of a poll of 1,016 secondary school students on national security the Ministry of Public Administration and Security announced on Tuesday. One in five believes that American or Japanese troops invaded South Korea in the Korean War. Only 48.7 percent of respondents correctly answered that North Korea invaded the country.
In a poll of 3,660 elementary schoolchildren last year, a monthly magazine asked in which of the four eras -- Three Kingdom period, Koryo period, Chosun period and contemporary era -- the Korean War broke out, and 37.8 percent opted for Chosun. 5.5 percent chose Three Kingdoms and 7.4 percent Koryo. In other words, more than a half the children think that the Korean War took place during our ancient dynasties. This, say teachers, is a phenomenon arising from inadequate attention given to the Korean War in the textbooks.
The cause of the Korean War is fist mentioned in the current sixth-grade textbook. It reads, "North Korea started the war in order to unify South Korea by force." An earlier reference was oriented toward unification rather than toward national security, when a second-grade textbook read, "Though we are divided into South and North, we are one nation." A high-school junior textbook makes reference to the Korean War "that erupted in 1950," but does not mention the North's invasion of the South. A teacher says this was "out of a concern that an explanation of the cause and process of the Korean War requires mentioning who was accountable for it, which would encourage students to harbor hostility toward the North."
A third-grade North Korean textbook, titled, "The Childhood of Great Leader Field Marshal Kim Jong-il," begins this way: "U.S. imperialist aggressors and their stooges launched a war in our country on June 25, 1950." A 12th-grade textbook, titled, "Crimes of Korea Invasion by U.S. and Japanese Imperialists," reads, "American imperialism, backed by scrupulous planning and preparations, provoked a war of invasion against our republic on June 25."
In the latest poll, 57.1 percent of the secondary school students cited the U.S. or Japan as countries that threaten our national security most. Only 24.5 percent named North Korea. Despite the fact that 54,000-odd Americans were killed in the Korean War, young people are as hostile to the U.S. as they are to North Korea.
It is no coincidence that when Korea Military Academy freshmen were asked in 2004 which country their nation's main enemy is, 34 percent named America and 33 percent North Korea. This is so because the Korean Teachers and Education Worker's Union and the Left have sowed the seeds of distorting our history in the classroom. We must urgently provide our young with a proper education on the Korean War, which has been eroded by unification-oriented teaching. The first step is to revise the textbooks.
By Chosun Ilbo columnist Kim Dong-seop