I have always found it amazing how ignorant many Koreans are about their own history and the results of this test seem to only confirm this:
More than half the candidates who sat the first Korean history proficiency test by the National Institute of Korean History on Nov. 25 failed. The NIKH said Wednesday that 48.37 percent of 15,395 applicants passed the test. By level, 45.71 percent of applicants passed the high-school history education equivalent level, 31.73 percent passed the middle school test, and 85.04 percent and 72.94 percent the two elementary-grade papers. In other words, while most candidates at elementary level passed, candidates at middle school level proved particularly poor.
The Japanese colonial period is often used to condemn the Japanese, however according to this test many of the Korean students don’t even accurately understand the Japanese colonial period:
Candidates were most embarrassed by questions about Japanese colonial rule. Experts say this is because some school history classes sometimes donâ€™t cover the era, which is in the latter part of the standard textbooks, due to time restraints. Many applicants also gave wrong answers to questions about the ancient Koguryo and Barhae kingdoms, which China has been trying to co-opt as part of its history by way of the so-called Northeast Project. This suggests Korea has tackled attempts at historical distortion by Japan and China with more rhetoric than substance.
I guess I should give these students a break because maybe they didn’t understand which answers to give on this test because you have real history and than you have the revised history of the Korean government that revises unpleasant aspects of Korean history such as Korean war criminals during World War II.Â Does the student answer the actual number or the revised number only accepted by the Korean government?Â Actually I would be impressed if the students even knew Korea had war criminals during World War II to begin with.Â Just think if they asked a question about who was responsible for the Gwangju Uprising how many different answer they would get.Â The politicization of Korean history by politicians for their own short term political advantage is what is responsible for so many competing theories of Korean history.Â Not to mention the North Korean fifth column interested in rewriting history in order to give a more sympathetic and positive view of North Korea while at the same time exploiting issues in order to drive a wedge between the US and the general Korean public which they have had much success at.Â Unfortunately I don’t see this trend changing any time soon.