The education ministry said Friday it ordered publishers of seven out of the eight government-approved Korean history textbooks to revise a total of 41 instances of what it calls obscure and imbalanced descriptions of history.
Publication of the books will be suspended if the order is not complied with, the ministry warned.
The ministry has reviewed the textbooks endorsed for use at high schools around the country from the 2014 school year after one of them, published by Kyohak Publishing Co., raised the ire of opposition lawmakers, liberal historians and civic activists for containing a conservative bias and many factual errors on Korean history.
Last month, the ministry recommended publishers of all eight government-approved Korean history textbooks revise 829 instances of factual errors, misspellings or ideologically biased descriptions that its team of experts discovered.
The publishers later revised most of the 829 parts in question, but 41 parts remain unchanged after authors of seven textbooks, excluding the book from Kyohak, unveiled their own plan to modify the texts, instead of fully accepting the recommendation.
They include North Korea's land reform in 1946, the two Koreas' massive killings of innocent civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War, the 2010 sinking of the South Korean Cheonan warship, Japan's territorial claim over South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, and North Korean human rights abuses, among others.
"The most important factors for determining the subjects of modification were if there are any factual errors and elements that could negatively affect students' perspective of the right historical events and whether the books followed general standards for history writing," Na Seung-il, deputy education minister, told reporters.
Tuesday is the deadline for submitting reports showing how these requirements were reflected in textbooks, the ministry said.
It said authorities will make a final decision on whether or not to permit publication of the books next Friday or at a later date after reviewing the reports submitted.
The government order drew an immediate backlash from authors of the books.
"We cannot accept the education ministry's modification order and feel the need to take legal action against it," Ju Jin-oh, a history professor at Seoul's Sangmyeong University who chairs the group of seven authors, told Yonhap News Agency by phone.
Ju said they will meet in the evening to discuss details of their "collective action." (Yonhap News)