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The Rise of Historical Consciousness and Presentism : Changes in the Purpose of Korean History Education in the 1970s and 1980s

Sunny Hong 1

1국사편찬위원회

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article aims to investigate the background of the prevalence of historical consciousness discourse in Korean society during the 1970s and 1980s. It also explores the significance of this discourse being established as the ultimate goal of the ‘7080 Government-designated Textbook System’ from both intellectual and historical perspectives. In the 1970s, as a sense of crisis and anxiety overwhelmed Korean society due to military and security crises, as well as rapid modernization and westernization, Koreans began to feel the onset of a transitional era. Under these circumstances, the concept of historical consciousness became highly popular within intellectual circles. As the discourse of historical consciousness gained traction, arguments emerged both within and outside academia that posited historical consciousness as the ultimate goal of national history education. As a result, historical consciousness emerged as the final and ultimate goal of national history education in the 1970s and 1980s. However, while government-led historical consciousness in the 1970s emphasized national patriotism based on pride in traditional culture, the 1980s witnessed the emergence of a resistant historical consciousness that prioritized unification and democratization as primary objectives. On the one hand, in terms of the purpose and usefulness of history, presentism can be defined as ‘the belief that the significance of history lies in solving current problems and contributing to future progress.’ Both government-mandated historical consciousness and resistance historical consciousness shared the characteristic of ideologizing history education under the guise of historical consciousness. Therefore, the historical consciousness that served as the ultimate purpose of national history education under the ‘7080 Government-designated Textbook System’ was rooted in presentism. It viewed history not for its own inherent value or to respect the past, but as something to be learned with a clear sense of purpose — to utilize it for present and future development and progress.

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