[KS] Re: examples of Korea in the textbooks

Youngsook Pak yp at soas.ac.uk
Wed Dec 13 08:20:28 EST 2000

Dear Prof. Peterson,

Thank you for sending such a thoughtful letter to colleagues in Korean
Studies. I do however think that basic textbooks are important, even
if students approach Korean studies for other reasons. For instance,
very recently, I was frustrated to read in the draft short panel
texts, about to be displayed publicly in a  public  institution, that
it has been repeatedly invaded, Korea has retained  a strong national
identity" etc., or "the Choson dynasty is usually divided into two halves
by the Japanese invasions of 1592 and 1597...Invasions by the Manchus....",
"Korea was a vassal kingdom of China..." In this case, I was able to advise
changing these formulations, before they went on public display.

I can not agree with you more. You do not read normally such information
in other short introductory texts for public display, but I have to
experience so frequently the kind of underlying attitude towards Korean
history and culture which you have described so well. As you said, this is
the information these people get from their School textbooks. No matter how
short these descriptions about Korea are in the text books, such negative
have a powerful influence on the ideas that people form about Korea.

Youngsook Pak
Department of Art & Archaeology
School of Oriental & African Studies
University of London

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