Leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party on Wednesday called for debate on the issue of reinstating state history textbooks as an alternative to the private sector textbooks that have caused controversy over their alleged biased content.
Controversy over the textbooks has grown in recent weeks as a number of high schools across the country have canceled their choice of a new history textbook under pressure from students, alumni and left-leaning civic groups.
Opposition lawmakers and other critics have claimed that the new textbook, which won state approval last year, promotes rightist views by glorifying the authoritarian regimes of former leaders Rhee Syng-man and Park Chung-hee, the late father of current President Park Geun-hye.
They also claim that the textbook supports Japan's historical perspective.
Earlier this month, the education ministry launched an investigation at more than 20 high schools to determine what caused them to reject the textbook.
Opposition parties have denounced the move as political pressure.
On Wednesday, ruling party floor leader Choi Kyoung-hwan expressed concern over the controversy.
"Under no circumstances should history be swayed by the logic of (rival) camps," he said at a meeting of senior party lawmakers and Supreme Council members. "If (history) textbooks become a cause for public discord and create unnecessary conflict, it is time to seriously discuss a possible return to state textbooks, at least for future generations."
Supreme Council member Chung Woo-taik voiced agreement, saying history textbooks should be free from ideologies and teach the truth.
"We should carefully discuss (the adoption) of a state history textbook at the party level," he said.
The current system, introduced in 2002, allows schools to choose any state-authorized history textbook regardless of its publisher.
Before that, the education ministry authored its own history textbook for use at all schools across the country, starting in 1974.
The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) flatly rejected the ruling party's calls.
"The argument for switching to state textbooks is an outrageous expression of anger caused by the adoption rate of the (new) textbook falling to around zero percent following its rejection by students and parents," a DP committee handling the textbook issue said in a statement. "No democratic and advanced country teaches history from state textbooks."
The committee also warned that a government that tries to distort history will lose the public's support. (Yonhap News)