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.
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