Monday, September 19, 2011

Image of Korea

Foreign textbooks contain untrue information

An analysis of foreign textbooks shows that the world knows shockingly little about Korea. A foreign textbook shows Korea's mother tongue is Chinese. The nation is wrongfully portrayed as an origin of malaria, with a teenager working for more than 11 hours at a textile company.

Another foreign textbook describes a fox-turned-woman giving birth to the nation's founding father Tangun. It may be a tall order for foreigners to know that the Korea-Japan wars did not occur under the reign of King Sejong the Great (1397-1450) during the Joseon Dynasty.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade found the incorrect entries about Korea after monitoring 7,982 textbooks in 90 countries since 2003. It detected the mistaken description of Korea not only in Tunisia, Argentina and the Philippines but also the United States, Germany, Russia and other Western countries.

It reported the detection of 30 flaws about Korea in 17 foreign textbooks since it started a project to have Korea known correctly in 2003.

It is also an inconvenient truth that many foreigners have difficulty in telling capitalist South Korea from communist North Korea.

The government agencies, including the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Academy of Korean Studies and the National Branding Commission, need close coordination to rectify wrong descriptions of Korea.

A system is necessary to enlist the help of Korean residents overseas and foreign embassies in Korea.

Outgoing foreign envoys could be named as advisors to Korea. They are invaluable assets for Korea in tracing factual errors about the world’s 14th largest economy in their home countries.

Korean compatriots and businessmen overseas need to know the government contact point for reporting errors in foreign publications they detect.

Korea should learn from Japan in Tokyo’s coordinated campaign to publicize the facts of the world's third largest economy.

The government needs patience in righting the wide-of-the-mark descriptions of Korea. A hasty move to have foreigners change their textbooks might invite a backlash. Textbooks undergo change every five to 10 years in most countries.

Untrue descriptions of Korea may be attributable mostly to lack of information. This raises Seoul’s need to provide accurate data to foreign educators.

The ongoing program to invite foreign scholars, historians and journalists to Korea should receive added attention from budget planners.

Korea badly needs to translate its own history books into foreign languages so that they can be used as reference points when they describe this country.

In trying to correct what people say about Korea ― from obscure school textbooks around the world to Financial Times forecasts for the economy, the government should not risk showing disrespect for other people's freedom of expression. Seoul needs a persuasive approach.

Correcting misinformation may be necessary, but Korea's image comes from what it does, not from changing what other people say.

No comments:

There was an error in this gadget