The Seoul government is examining all school textbooks to ensure that their descriptions of the country’s easternmost islets of Dokdo are accurate, the Education Ministry said Sunday.
The move is part of an aim to strengthen public education about the islets amid Tokyo’s stepped-up claim to them.
“With Dokdo becoming an issue between Korea and Japan, (the ministry) felt the need for a unified voice among Koreans concerning the islets and began examining textbooks for possible errors,” a ministry official said, declining to be named.
A total of 110 textbooks on subjects of history, geography and social studies are subject to the government scrutiny. The ministry has commissioned institutions specializing in Dokdo to take on the examination work, officials said.
The scrutiny is based on the Dokdo guidelines made by the state-run Northeast Asian History Foundation. The guidelines, which were last revised on Jan. 30, 2013, offer detailed information about the islets along with historical evidence that they are part of Korean territory.
The examination and revision process will be completed before the new semester begins in March, according to the ministry. Since the textbooks for this school year have already been printed, the compiled list of errors will be distributed to each school.
Seoul has recently explored ways to enhance public awareness about Dokdo and publicity efforts for the international audience as Japan has made provocative moves to strengthen its claim to the islets.
Last month, Tokyo announced it is revising the state teaching guidelines to mandate that all middle and high school textbooks spell out the country’s claim to Dokdo. The new textbooks will also mention the country’s claim to a chain of islands in the East China Sea claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.
Seoul berated Tokyo for attempting to teach its students “false history,” and called in Japan’s ambassador to South Korea in protest.
Despite protests from Korea, Japan’s hawkish leader Shinzo Abe said on Jan. 30 that he is considering taking the Dokdo issue to the International Court of Justice.
Korea dismissed Abe’s comments and maintained that Dokdo was not disputed territory, but rather a rightful part of Korea historically, geographically and by international law.
Amid the exacerbated anti-Japan sentiments in Korea, activists pointed out that some history textbooks contained Dokdo descriptions in line with Japan’s claims.
The Party for Dokdo Protection, a group of activists working against Japan’s claims to the islets, said last month that a controversial high school history textbook by Kyohak Publishing Co. described Dokdo as if it were disputed territory, which is in line with Tokyo’s claims.
Earlier this month, the Education Ministry said seven other high school history textbooks may have also wrongly described Dokdo as well, and said it is mulling over whether to examine all eight books for possible errors.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)