The system was introduced in 2010 to replace a state monopoly on history textbooks that was introduced by the authoritarian leader Park Chung-hee in 1974, two years after he revised the constitution to suspend democratic elections.
Park’s daughter, Park Geun-hye, is the sitting president and some of her political opponents have claimed that her government’s drive to reclaim control of the textbooks is driven by her desire to improve the standing of her father. He kick-started South Korea’s dramatic economic development but has been criticised for overseeing severe human rights violations, as well as for serving in Japan’s military during its colonial occupation of Korea.
“The Park government is trying to turn history books into government-controlled ones that glorify Japan and dictatorship,” the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said in a statement after the announcement.
But leading figures in the ruling New Frontier party have said the return to a single government-authored history textbook is necessary to promote national unity and prevent the risk of schoolchildren developing sympathy for North Korea.