[KS] examples of Korea in the textbooks

Mark Peterson Mark_Peterson at byu.edu
Sun Dec 10 17:01:42 EST 2000


	I've been working with the Korea Society lately on two 
projects having to do with improving the content of the U.S. 
textbooks concerning Korea, particularly at the secondary level. 
Apologies to those of you not in the U.S., but this may be germane to 
your country as well.

	One motivating factor for me is the concept that our 
post-secondary students come to us from secondary schools, and if 
they are interested in Korea from high school, they will be part of 
our enrollment at the university.  Frankly, this factor is 
simplistic, and mostly untrue; most of our students knew nothing of 
Korea from high school, but are motivated by other factors -- 
ethnicity, travel to Korea, taekwondo, or any number of things. 
Still, the idea of improving the coverage of Korea in the secondary 
textbooks seems like a worthwhile endeavor, whether it serves our 
immediate interests, enrollments, or not.  The idea of teaching about 
Korea beyond my classroom appeals to me.

	So, I have had the opportunity to meet several publishers, 
editors, and writers of secondary textbooks in fields of world 
history and geography.  One issue they raise is the competition for 
space within the textbook.  It is a complicated matter, and oft times 
involves higher levels than the writer, or the editor.  Corporate 
interests are involved.  So, how do we get more and better material 
into the textbook?  To ask for a chapter on Korea, or a larger 
section in the Asia chapter is very, very difficult.

	One way is to feature Korea more is to cite Korea as a good 
example, or maybe a bad example, of something.  For example, the 
economic miracle is an easy one to cite.  The development of 
democracy, from a once military-dominated government, to an 
opposition leader as president is another. The Korea War often 
appears in a chapter on the Cold War.  But are there more?  And are 
there some creative ways of featuring Korea as an example of 
something, and thereby teach that thing, and Korea in the process.

	One that occurred to me while talking to one group was the 
example peaceful cooperation of potentially conflicting religions. 
In a world where Arab and Israeli, where Serb and Croat, where Irish 
Protestant and Irist Catholic, are prime examples of fighting and 
killing over religion, Korea is a good example harmony.  And this 
where the two major religions, Buddhism and Confucianism, could not 
be more different.  One says leave your familiy, deny the world and 
society, look to nirvana; where the other says family, society is 
everything, and this life, not the next is of primary importance.

	The idea is to present such a concept to writers/editors to 
work into the textbook, and in the process the student learns 
something about Korea.

	Can you help me and the Korea Society to come up with some 
other examples?  Many of you in your teaching probably cite examples 
of where Korea provides a unique or interesting case of this or that 
in cross-cultural perspective.  I'll give you another that I use: 
the long dynasties.  Few countries have one dynasty that lasts 500 
years, but Korea has two or three or five -- depending on how you 
count Shilla, and Paekche and Koguryo^.  To me, that signifies 
tremendous political and social stability.  Unfortunately, in my 
view, many scholars are still stuck on the Japanese implanted 
rationale for destroying the dynasty, that it was "stagnant".  Some 
Korean scholars are starting to talk about the longievity issue with 
a positive view, but most still see Korean history as primarly 
war-torn, choatic, and faction-ridden.  I argue that such a view is 
tainted by the twentieth century experience, and that comparatively 
speaking the political turmoil was minor, and the invasions few, 
although the Mongol Invasion and the Hideyoshi Invasion were 
certainly catastrophic.  The common view is that Korea was invaded 
hundreds of times, even thousands of times, but there you have to 
count every pirate raid as an "invasion"; which they were not, not on 
the scale of the Mongols and Hideyoshi.  The concept then is this: 
Here is a society that was not militaristic, but had sophisticated 
civilian governing apparatus that had a long, peaceful, stable 
dynasty or rule.

	On this same front, the idea that Korean never invaded its 
neighbors reinforces my view that Korea has a mostly peaceful and 
civilian history, not a warrior and military history.  And this can 
possibly be worked in to a case study or example for the textbook, 
maybe with a comparison of a country on the opposite of the scale, 
i.e., the Japanese and bushido, samurai, and turmoil.

	Another part of the long, stable government is the concept of 
the censorate that formed a kind of precursor to modern democratic 
"checks and balances".

	Can you share any others that you use or talk about?  I hope 
this idea is of interest to many of you.  We will be asking some of 
you to join us in some workshops with small groups of textbook 
writers -- different groups for different "families" of publishers. 
There are four major publishers and each has several smaller firms 
within their conglomerate, and each has several titles that they 
publish.  It's complicated.  We hope to help them come up with 
interesting ideas that will present more about Korea to more high 
school students.

	Well then, asking for your input....

	and apologizing for being so wordy....

I am, respectfully, your colleague,
Mark Peterson

PS; if you don't want to reply to the whole list, I'd appreciate 
input privately as well @ map3 at email.byu.edu.

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