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Seoul unveils teachers’ guidelines on Dokdo

South Korean schools will systematically reinforce their students’ education regarding the nation’s easternmost islets of Dokdo under special teaching guidelines newly distributed by the Education Ministry, officials said Thursday.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology sent comprehensive teaching guidelines to the municipal and provincial education authorities and schools across the nation earlier this week in a bid to help young students achieve a correct understanding of the South Korean islets in the East Sea, said the officials.

The school guidelines dictate purposes, targets and topics of education on Dokdo set for each particular grade or level of students, with an aim to “have (students) grow determined to protect our territory and raise democratic awareness appropriate to the future-oriented South Korean-Japanese relations.”

According to the guidelines, Dokdo’s natural environment, history and political and economic value will be taught in elementary schools in order to prompt younger students to learn the importance of the islets.

Middle school students will learn to identify evidence of South Korea’s territorial sovereignty over Dokdo, studying history, geographic materials and international laws.

High school teachers will inform students of the country’s international campaigns to combat Japan’s sovereignty claims over the rocky islets that have been under way and encourage them to participate in such movements.

“Education about Dokdo has not been well organized because there were no detailed guidelines for it,” said an official from the ministry. “It’s not mandatory for schools to comply with it, but it’s like a regular curriculum.”

Experts say that the ministry’s move reflects its anticipation of Japan’s upcoming announcement of new history textbooks that are expected to lay fresh claims to Dokdo.

“Some conservative publishers applied for the textbook review process (for Japan), and the Tokyo government is highly likely to approve those claiming its territorial sovereignty. The ministry has probably laid the groundwork for that,” said an expert.

Tokyo is now conducting a review of 16 textbooks, including those for history, and Seoul officials have expressed concern that the upcoming outcome of the review might worsen bilateral relations.

South Korea has maintained a small Coast Guard unit on Dokdo since 1954 in a show of its effective control of the islets, but Japan has claimed sovereignty over the territory rich in fish and hydrate gas. 

(Yonhap News)