SEOUL, April 18 (Korea Bizwire) — It’s not just K-pop that is making inroads in the United States these days, as Korean history is taking a more prominent place in world history textbooks for American students.
Choi Mi-young, head of the non-profit organization ECHO-Korea, said she recently visited a showcase of history textbooks designated for use at California’s regular schools and perused the various titles. “What amounted to only one page on Korean material last year has increased to up to ten pages, so [Korean students in the U.S.] can feel proud while learning about their native country’s history and culture.”
The state of California gives school parents an opportunity to take a look at textbooks and offer their opinions before making their final selections for school curricula. In 2009, Korean-American school parents submitted a complaint to the California Department of Education relating to the novel “So Far from the Bamboo Grove” by Japanese American writer Yoko Kawashima Watkins after finding factual inaccuracies in the tale. Including accounts of Japanese female victims of rape perpetrated by Koreans, the semi-autobiographical work stirred up controversy in east Asian nations and was ultimately removed as a school curriculum option in California.
According to Choi, world history textbooks from established publishers McGraw-Hill, National Geographic and Pearson dedicate five to ten pages describing Korean art, history and more.
Some errors were found. In the textbooks from Pearson, the invention of the Hangul Korean alphabet was included in the Goryeo Dynasty section (Hangul was created by King Sejong the Great of the Joseon Dynasty), and textbooks from McGraw-Hill mistakenly named the Joseon Dynasty as “Yi Dynasty” (“Yi” was the surname of the founder of the dynasty).
Saying that she would contact the publishers to inform them of the inaccuracies, Choi added that she was pleased with the diversified and expanded Korean material in the textbooks this year.
Echo-Korea was founded in 2012 by a group of teachers wishing to promulgate Korean history and culture. The organization hosts a camp for students every year called “The Young Korean American Academy”.
Around 50 K-12 Korean-American students who attended the camp last year wrote letters to state education offices and publishers asking for greater exposure of Korean history and culture, with McGraw-Hill recently sending back a response letter promising to implement the students’ requests.