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Education minister vows to protect textbook authors

Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea vowed that the government will protect the panel of authors for state history textbooks, who face criticism on the Internet.

Last week, the government announced that it will revise the current textbook publication system so that middle and high school students will learn Korean history through national textbooks starting in the 2017 school year.

The government also said that a total of 36 historians with expertise in different periods and fields of history will participate in writing the new books under the supervision of the National Institute of Korean History.

"The government will sternly deal with spreading false information, defamation, or insults," Minister Hwang told Yonhap News Agency on Sunday. "The government will also request the protection of the team of writers as the National Police Agency had already announced stern actions." 

Earlier, the police said it will crack down on those who resort to violence or defamation against members of the history textbook team.

The government plan hit a snag after a veteran history professor leading the team resigned two days after his appointment over sexual harassment allegations.

Choi Mong-lyong, an emeritus professor at Seoul National University, allegedly made sexual remarks and inappropriately touched a female journalist.

"It is very regrettable and pitiful," the minister said, adding that Choi had received enough criticism on the Internet.

The government made public the names of only two leading writers -- Choi and Shin Hyung-sik, a history professor from the Ewha Woman's University -- although it has vowed to release a full list of the authors, prompting public criticism.

"Why would (the government) not make public the writers when the books are finished," Hwang refuted, indicating that the government may not unveil the names until the completion. "It is important to first protect the authors and let them write the books freely."

South Korea began publishing state history textbooks under the authoritarian government of Park Chung-hee -- the late father of incumbent President Park Geun-hye -- in 1974. Private publishers took over the right to publish history textbooks under a government monitoring system in 2011. (Yonhap)