Exploring North–South Korean Unification in the South Korean National Standards and K-12 School Textbooks from the Perspective of Peace Education


 Presenter (s) Seung-Yun Lee, Hanshin University; Young Son Jung, Korea University; Kyoungeun Kim, Sun Chun Hyuan University

The purpose of this study was to examine the 2015 Revised Moral Education Curriculum Standards and the 2015 Revised Social Studies Curriculum Standards using a semantic network analysis. We conducted this study to explore the structures of the connections of keywords related to unification education and to identify areas for improvement for the field of unification education.

Unification education is defined as education to prepare students to live a united, democratic Korea. Specifically, it has to guide students to develop their knowledge, skills, and perspectives to live in a future society in which North and South Korea are unified into a single country. Because North and South Koreans have lived in different political, social, and cultural spaces, they have to learn how to understand one another and solve possible conflicts between the two groups. These lessons must include knowledge and skills to enable people in the two Koreas to understand, analyze, manage, and solve such conflicts (Moon, 2018). In addition, they have to learn respectful attitudes based on mutual understanding of one another (Park, 2010). For this reason, both cognitive and affective aspects of understanding have to be pursued in the theoretical and practical fields of unification education.

In the unification education scholarship, peace education and diversity education are considered as key elements that students have to learn. Peaceful solution of conflicts between North and South Korea should be a priority, and diversity education is also a must-teach topic because North and South Korea have different cultures, which should be equally respected (Noh & Chung, 2011; Park, 2007).

However, all these discussions have been implemented in theoretical rather than practical fields. It is unknown what knowledge and skills the national curriculum and textbook include related to unification education, though they are usually categorized into moral education and social studies education texts. For this reason, this study will explore the meanings of the national curriculum content and that of textbooks.

To implement this study, we selected the standards of content knowledge and skills related to unification education from the two curriculum standards and then retrieved keywords from the moral education and social studies curricula, respectively. We also analyzed K-12 students’ moral and social studies education textbooks, written exclusively by the agents granted by national governments. We retrieved keywords from the moral education and social studies textbooks. A semantic network analysis was conducted in R (version 3.5.3); the degree, betweenness, and eigenvalue centralities of the semantic networks of the texts were compared and interpreted. The clusters consisted of retrieved keywords from the curriculum standards and textbooks, and they were compared and analyzed.

Preliminarily, we found the following from the analysis of curriculum standards: In moral education standards and textbooks, we found that the affective perspective and the individual–nation relationship tended to be stressed in unification education; however, the rationale of why North and South Korea should be peacefully unified was barely explained to students. Unification as a keyword was linked to and mediated between many other keywords, which reflects that students must first accept that unification between North and South Korea should be realized in order to understand related content knowledge. Unification as a keyword is placed at the center of the semantic networks of moral education. However, the connections between unification and peace barely appeared in the moral education–related texts, though one of the main topics in the scholarship of South Korean moral education and social studies education is to understand North–South Korean unification from the perspective of peace education.

In social studies education, the cognitive skills required to explore and compare the North–South relationship in an international context tended to be emphasized. As well as unification, verbs to describe students’ performances were placed in the center and mediated many other keywords in the semantic networks of social studies education. However, the exploration in the textbooks did not guide students to interpret findings from the perspective of peace education. The unification of the two Koreas was described as a goal to be achieved in the future, and the rationale, such as the pursuit of peace in the Korean peninsula, was barely addressed in the curriculum standards and textbooks.

Based on the research findings, we suggest as follows: first, the national curriculum and textbooks have to include content and student activities to help students connect two-Korea unification to diversity and peace issues. By doing so, students could interpret unification as a means to increase their understanding of diversity, which would contribute to the peaceful solution of conflicts among people from the two Koreas and be a means to contribute to the realization of world peace by decreasing the possibility of war in East Asia. Because peace and diversity are barely emphasized in the national curriculum and textbooks focusing on unification education, the amount of content focused on these two concepts needs to be increased in the curriculum and textbooks. Second, students have to have opportunities to connect their perspectives on and cognitive understanding of unification. In the current national curriculum, moral education contains little content to help students think about unification, and social studies education barely deals with the issue that students in one Korea need to have emotional understanding of the difficulties that people from the other Korea may have. The educational experts on moral and social education, which are two separate disciplines in South Korea, have to cooperate to develop curricula and textbooks to help students connect their affective and cognitive understandings of two-Korea unification.

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