This paper delineates the way in which the history of the Korean War is told in the received American history textbooks. In doing this, I compare descriptions of the Korean War in American textbooks with those in Chinese and Korean textbooks. I anticipate a contrast in the ways each textbook perceives the Korean War. At the same time, I focus on the relationship between the content and the most recent academic research on the Korean War, because the two are not always the same. What I find is that the narratives in American textbooks, like in Chinese textbooks, tend to characterize one’s posture as defensive and innocent and identify the other’s ambition as the prime source of disorder and war in Korea. These defender-aggressor mirror images help them to view their own involvement in the Korean War as a morally rational decision. The topic of the U.S.’s failure to appreciate indigenous Korean national needs and alliance with colonial powers is largely ignored. While atrocities in the Vietnam War committed by the U.S. are being taught in the U.S. classroom, those in the Korean War are not mentioned at all. Because textbooks are one of the crucial semiotic codes to construct society, we should allow multiple perspectives to understand historical events and encourage citizens to think about historical events critically. American symbolic code should be sustained and revised according to her value: democracy.
This article surveys the characteristics and changes of China’s historical understanding of Korea by examining the descriptions of the Korean War in its high school history textbooks. Twelve textbooks published from 1978 to 2008, which used the former USSR-style of Lishi jiaoxuedagang or the American style of Lishi kechengbiaozhun, were analyzed. China is a country that uses history education as a main mechanism of its ideological education, which establishes its ideology and justifies the party. Since China has reformed its educational framework in accordance with the demands of the times, an analysis of Chinese history textbooks is a suitable way to comprehend China’s understanding of other countries. An analysis of the history of war and, in particular, the Korean War will provide a clear understanding of China’s awareness of Korea. Although its official stance regarding the Korean War has not changed much, what has changed is the use of a relatively objective description from its exclusively ideological viewpoint shown in past textbooks. The textbooks also consider the relations between North and South Korea apart from its interpretation of the war solely as a confrontation between China and America.
This paper analyzes descriptions on the Korean War in Japanese high school textbooks. This paper also reviews Japanese academia’s research trends on the Korean War and determines to what extent recent academic research has been reflected in the high school textbooks. First, even though Japanese academia understands the divided situation of the Korean Peninsula not only from the viewpoint of the Cold War but also as an aspect of the Korean people’s conflict and confrontation, these views have been omitted in textbooks. Second, since the end of the Cold War, classified material from China and the USSR has been available to researchers. Thus there has been more research on the Korean War done in Japan, and the influences of the Korean War on Japan have been faithfully described from an economic standpoint. But there has been a lack of critical analysis regarding rearmament, and the Japanese army’s participation in the Korean War is rarely described. Third, content about the circumstances surrounding the Armistice Agreement and the meaning of the Korean War is very limited.
This paper examines how European social studies textbooks deal with the Korean War. The Korean War is not only a major Korean topic covered in foreign textbooks, but it is also an important historical event for European countries as tensions rose in the face of the entrenchment of the Cold War. This paper divides Europe into three regions: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and other European countries. The analysis shows that instead of three different views on the Korean War based upon region, each country has a different emphasis and way of narrating. Textbooks are an important medium in which official ideology and politics are reflected. Even if various perspectives on the Korean War exist, the mainstream view of each country, which is expressed in the textbooks, reflects the knowledge approved by the state.
This paper examines how Kazakh and Uzbek textbooks deal with the Korean War after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Rich in natural resources, these two countries are not only inhabited by a large number of ethnic Koreans but also have close relations with South Korea. The two countries show differences in the transitional process from a closed socialist system to a market economy system. In the case of Kazakhstan that opened its doors to the world and moved away from one-sided relations, its textbooks reflect post-Cold War politics and have removed many of the former USSR’s influences. In dealing with the Korean War, the textbooks maintain a neutral position that tries not to assert any one-sided view. In contrast, being a relatively more homogeneous nation and, consequently, more nationalistic, Uzbekistan retains many of the former USSR’s influences in its textbook narratives. According to these textbooks, South Korea is very much dependent on the U.S., and in dealing with the independence movement, the North Korean influence is noticeable as only Kim Il-sung’s struggles against the Japanese are highlighted. The two countries’ textbooks are critical of the bourgeoisie characteristics of South Korean democracy. In particular, Uzbekistan points to the problems of inequality in wealth, labor policy, social welfare policy, and the unification policy. Certainly, these comments are a valuable feedback for South Korea. More exchanges and dialogues with an open mind will improve relations and help everyone gain objectivity and fairness in understanding each other’s country in the post-Cold War era. Specifically, correcting any fallacies and misinformation contained in each other’s textbooks will improve understanding.
The paper analyzes why South Korea, a war-torn and poverty-stricken country, succeeded in building a modern state in a single generation under the most trying circumstances. Despite its remarkable success, there are conflicting views on contemporary Korea: common liberal perspectives tend to focus on its deviances from democracy. The author develops a theoretical perspective on nation building which assumes that a new nation lacks the basic infrastructure of a modern state and therefore the primary task of leadership is to build this infrastructure security, economy, and democracy. It is assumed that many constraints as well as multiple challenges exist in nation building, but a step-by-step approach is necessary. In terms of a comparative historical perspective based on the nation-building of early modernizers, those nations experienced a centralization of power, a buildup of a standing army and economic growth, and democratization occurred gradually. The paper then analyzes how South Korea’s nation building is similar to those early modernizers in terms of sequential achievement in the order of security, economic growth, and democratization. Witnessing a looming failure of the U.S. policy of democracy promotion in Iraq, the approach has important theoretical implications for those who struggle with the lingering problems of many Third World nations.
This study examines the educational world of Joseon people living in Manchuria during Japanese imperialism through life history records. It covers educational environment, meanings and value of education, and curriculum and contents of education. The interviewees were immigrants to Manchuria from a colonized nation so they had to suffer from the pains of adapting themselves to a new land, from the economic exploitation of Japanese imperialism, and from national lamentation, and they weren’t free from the extant premodern discrimination. This living environment was also their educational environment. They believed education was the key to helping them and their nation escape from poverty and suppression. Therefore, they were unified in the thought that they themselves, their brothers, relatives, and nation should be educated. Finally, in school, they were prevented from using the Joseon language, they were mobilized for labor, and they received a military training education. They respected the Joseon teachers who had national spirit most. Joseon people in Manchuria during Japanese imperialism regarded education as the gateway to a better world from the suppressive and impoverished situation that they and their nation faced. They believed education was the first step to a better future. Therefore, many Joseon people were saddened because they couldn’t go to school, and they strived to be educated or to educate by willingly submitting to any economic, national, and physical hardships