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365. Looking Back, for a Better Future

Jang, Min-young Reporter 기자2017.03.03 19:02:39

     What words could possibly describe the disappointment, outrage, and betrayal the South Korean government has bestowed on its people? Credibility has fallen to a new low. The Park, Geun-hye and Choi, Soon-sil Gate focuses on allegations that President Park, Geun-hye allowed Choi, Soon-sil to have unauthorized access to government affairs and to solicit money. Both Park and Choi have apologized but they have also denied almost all the allegations levelled at them. Their meaningless, empty apologies make people resent the state of the nation and fear how this chaos will be described in history. Amid the present chaos, the people of Korea need to look back in order to acquire insight, voice moral opinions, and prevent the same mistakes occurring again.


The Beauty of Looking Back

     Winston Churchill once said, “A nation that forgets its past has no future.” From this quote, it can be inferred that not knowing what happened in history can have frightening consequences. In a book published by the KNU Korean History Compilation Committee*, professor Ju, Bo-don compares mankind without the knowledge of history to an amnesiac who forgets his past. An amnesiac will not remember who he is or where he stands in the present moment, which in turn will cause a loss of identity. Similarly, if mankind forgets its past, not only will it face a great confusion but also be incapable of leading itself to a normal future. In an interview with The KNU Times, professor Ju elaborated, “We exist because we have past experiences that we share. That is the reason why I think we must go forward together.”

     Learning how a nation evolved politically, technologically, economically, or ideologically helps people better understand their culture and perceive social issues with deeper insight. People can appreciate the precedents that made the world the way it is today after decades of suffering, joy, and chaos. It may inspire people to take actions and voice their opinions.

     Being exposed to various historical views and interpretations helps people develop historical thinking and judgement. In 2015, the Park government carried forward a change in history education from using government authorized textbooks to using one unified textbook designated by the government. The majority of Korean university professors in departments of History as well as many in KNU declared their refusal to write a governmentdesignated history textbook. Professor Yoon, Jae-seok in department of History of KNU said in an interview with Newsmin in 2015, that “it is natural for historians to have different views.” “Unifying these views into one version is a dictatorial and totalitarian idea,” he added. Moreover, professor Yoon encouraged students to be exposed to various historical theories and opinions instead of learning history from one perspective.

     On the other hand, lack of proper history knowledge leads to lack of judgement and common sense. One example may be Park Sa Mo, meaning people who love Park, Geun-hye. These members accuse the nonsupporters of being “spies from North Korea”, so called “Reds,” and proclaim that impeaching Park will trigger North Korea’s attack on Seoul. They have been criticized for their preposterous remarks because denunciation of the 2016 scandal is not a matter of difference in values or political inclination, but a matter of recognizing what is wrong.


Route to a Better Future

     When asked what the problems of history awareness are today, professor Ju replied, “today’s people are busy running with their eyes fixed forward. They are so busy living their present lives that they often fail to think of history. People tend to forget the past too easily that there is even an expression that says ‘pot spirit** ’” which compares how quick people gain and lose interest to how fast a pot is heated and cooled off. He also remarked that “history is not something to always keep an eye on but it should at least be occasionally contemplated so that we can set an example of successes and never repeat mistakes.” History, in turn, suggests a fair direction for the future.

     People must recognize themselves as a part of history and that there is a need to become self-determining in the changing world. Responsibility to write a righteous history and to lead to a better future is needed. Furthermore, Professor Ju remarked that students should be able to think critically. He said that critical thinking is very often mistaken for denunciation. The difference between these two is that critical thinking is about seeking a better direction while denunciation does not offer alternative solutions. He also pointed out, “Students have a tendency to settle for the present.” This can be a problem because reality is not perfectly stable but rather bound to hold unstable elements. He claimed that students must not accept things as they are seen and try to penetrate the “truth that runs under water.”
    

     Korean History has been designated as a required subject since the 2017 Korean College Scholastic Aptitude Test. This increase in demand of history knowledge shows that it is emerging as a necessary aspect of life. The current insecurity with which the people of Korea live should not be a discouragement but rather a motivation to look back, fix the shaky road, and walk toward a better future.


*경북대 한국사교재편찬위원회

** 냄비 근성

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