Korea and Koreans in Korean language textbooks in New Times


Dong Bae Lee  

Asian Languages and Studies  
University of Queensland  
Brisbane, Australia


ABSTRACT: This article shows how Korean textbooks in New Times represent Korean culture.  By using critical discourse analysis, this paper reveals how dominant ideologies and power are embedded in language textbooks.  Portraying Korean postmodern spaces and images along with the emphasis on ecology, leisure and consumption, textbooks failed to present many of the real images and of Korea; many negative aspects of Korea such as gender, class and regional conflicts are silenced.  Western images and representations such as MacDonalds, Pizza Hut and Coca Cola are omitted even though they are parts of Korean culture in New Times.  Textbooks misrepresent polluted areas as clean, natural places, and people in the textbooks often go to imaginary spaces which do not exist in Korea in order to have picnics or holidays.  Textbooks also portray children as if they are the cause of pollution rather than big companies or multinational companies.   Thus, textbooks stand for the ideologies and interests of the upper/ middle class, and urban residents, while marginalising those of lower class, rural residents or fishery workers.


1. Introduction

              Under the initiative of Western European capitalism globalisation has extended Western dominant culture and economic structure in New Times.  This process has marginalised the local cultures in other areas and has begun to integrate heterogeneous cultures into a dominant culture, which influences the whole world (Choi, Guizar and Lee, 2000).  This globalisation and expansion of Western capitalism has also affected education and school curricula.  In this article I want to investigate how Korean textbooks in New Times represent Korean culture.  To do this, I want first to outline the general trends of New Times and then turn to analyse how Korean textbooks depict contemporary cultures.  I first would like to define New Times.  Hall (1996a) says that:  

            'New Times' refers to social, economic, political and cultural changes of a deeper kind now taking place in Western capitalist societies.  These changes, it is suggested, form the necessary shaping context, the material and cultural conditions of existence, for any political strategy, whether of the right or the left.... If we take the 'New Times' idea apart, we find that it is an attempt to capture, within the confines of a single metaphor, a number of different facets of social change, none of which has any necessary connection with the other. (pp. 224-5)  

            Scholars such as Alain Touraine and Andre Gorz have tried to define the different dimensions of change that have occurred in contemporary times with terms such as 'postindustrialism,' 'post-Fordism' and 'postmodernism.'  All of these are frustrating in their partiality.  The term 'New Times' is an attempt to depict diverse and contradictory aspects of all social, cultural, political and economic changes.  In New Times, value is based on commodity and so relies on exchange values (Hall, 1996a).  Cultural knowledge drawn from the observable world of social trends, life styles, tastes, images and appearances is focal in such an environment (Chen, 1996), as multinational enterprises crossing national borders to assert an international influence.  The processes of New Times are uneven, destructive, contradictory, disjunctured anddivisive, and the differences between the poor and the rich increase.  Yet, New Times is both local and the global at the same time (Hall, 1993).             

            It marks significant changes in the social and cultural arena.  In New Times individual subjects are more important than collective subjects.  Diversity, differentiation and fragmentation apparently exist in New Times, opposing cultural and linguistic homogeneity.  Culturally, everyday cultures (popular culture) are stressed, and New Times marks a critique of solid concepts of history, moving away from stable meaning and ends the grand narratives of progress, development, enlightenment, rationality and truth which were the foundation of Western philosophy and politics (Hall, 1996a).  Politically, the power of the State is weakened, while multinational cooperations become more powerful. 


2. The Context: New Times in Korea

2.1 Overview  

            Korea has changed significantly under New Times.  The rapid economic growth and increasing democracy allowed Korea to become a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1997 and to escape third world status.   

            Through the direct presidential election, political liberalisation and the release of political prisoners, Korean citizens could choose their president in a democratic way under Chun's government in 1987.  The Korean government started to give autonomy to local government under Roh's regime in 1990 (Macdonald, 1990).  After the Cold War was over, Korea made new diplomatic relationships with China and Russia, as well as with most former communist countries.  

            Westernisation sped up, and people started to enjoy leisure and holidays domestically and/or overseas.  However, the issues of discrimination against female workers and minority people from China or South Asia such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines whose work usually consists of demeaning, difficult and dangerous tasks remained and continue to fester.  As Korea has become industrialised and urbanised, its environment has deteriorated drastically, and the imbalanced development of the region has become apparent.  Although many changes have occurred in most areas of Korean society, Korean education has not improved remarkably.   

            Furthermore, the Korean economy has tumbled since the end of 1997, when Korea asked for a bailout from the IMF.  This economic crisis is affecting Korean society comprehensively now.  Although the Korean economy recorded almost 11% annual growth in 1999 (Park Sangsoo, 2000), it still suffers many negative influences of the IMF package, such as unemployment.


2.2 Political Changes  

            For four decades after 1949, Korea experienced rule by military governments or dictators.  Mounting resistance of students and citizens led presidential candidate Rho Tae Woo, in 1987, to accept direct election to the Korean presidency.(Macdonald, 1990)   Since then, Korea has moved toward a free and democratic political system.  President Rho also started to allow local autonomy to subordinate administrative organisations in 1990.            However, this political development worsened regional rivalry.   As a result, people gave priority to candidates who were from their own regio, not paying much attention to the candidate's personal ability.  Regionalism was used tactically by the late President Park, and by the three Kims (the former President, Kim Young Sam; the incumbent President, Kim Dae Jung; and the Prime Minister, Kim Jong Pil) all of whom followed Park's example by building a power base in their home provinces.  Since his election, President Kim has tried to get rid of such regionalism by rewriting the law governing selection of members of parliament(Kim Kyung Ho, 1999a).   However, the result of parliamentary election held on April, 2000 shows that ruling party could not win any single seat in rival regions (Yoo Jaesuk, 2000).   

            Corruption also remained as serious issue.  Businessman routinely give bribes to politicians for specific returns.  For example, ex-vice information-communication Minister, Jung Hong Shik, took bribes totalling Won10 million in relation to personal communications service licensing.  The ex-President's son, Kim Hyun Chul, was also arrested because he took US$3.6 million in bribes from two businessmen seeking government contracts and licenses (Kim Kyung Ho, 1999b).  

            In a classic example of cronyism, President Kim Dae Jung appointed men from his hometown as heads of most governmental organisations and ignored critics.  He also appointed a relative as the head of a State-run newspaper, Seoul Shinmun (Chon Se Ho, 1998).   

            Student demonstrations also play a fundamental role in Korean society.  The student movement contributed crucially to achieving democracy and the termination of military governments.   Koran history in the twentieth century shows many examples of student activism.    When Japan ruled over Korea with an iron fist, Korean students rebelled against their oppression in 1919.  Students fought against dictators after 1945.   Events of 1987 can be seen as s student-won victory.    But nowadays, not many citizens support student radical political movements.  Korean society has improved significantly.             

            Christianity represents a powerful force in Korean society. The percentage of Korean Christians was 44.5% in 1985,with most attending Sunday services (Kim Kyong Jae, 1996).   With students Korean Christians also resisted the military dictators after 1945.   In the 1970s, when the Korean administrative focused on fast economic growth as the highest natural aim of national administration, low-paid labourers could not defend their human rights because the government also collaborated with big companies and did not allow workers to form unions.  Korean Christians endeavoured to defend the human rights of poor working class people by resisting the policies of dictatorial capitalist military government (Kim Kyong Jae, 1996).  Christianity in Korean society continues to faster religious power, material wealth and mental self-satisfaction.  

            Change also has come to the relationship between the North and the South.  Unification is the crucial and yearning hope of most Korean people.  Due to different ideological and political systems North and South Korea approach unification differently.  South Korea ,during the 1990s, endeavoured to open the door to North Korea by using "the Sunshine policy" which promoted exchanges and cooperation with the North through a free trade zone (Son Kye Young, 1999).  The South Korean government gave food (e.g., 6,000 tons of corn) to the North. (Kim Ji Soo, 1998b)  The South contributed economic aid to build light water nuclear plants.  Also, the South Korean government abolished limits on investment in North Korea (Kim Ji Soo,1998a).  This led to Jung Ju Young, a South Korean businessman (the head of Hyundai) visiting North Korea on 17 July in 1998 to negotiate economic cooperation.    Mt. Kumgang tourism began on 18 November, 1998 (Chae Hee Mook & Son Gye Young, 1998).   This year the South Korean president Kim Dae Jung participated in a successful summit held in North Korea and agreed to prepare for reunification gradually and peacefully.  From this year they have also agreed to allow separated families to visit each other and to increase economic cooperation (Hong Soonyoung, 2000).


2.3 Economic Changes  

            Korean GNP was US$84 in 1954 (Pae Sung Moon, 1992), but it was US$10,548 in 1996 (The Korean Economy, 1997).  Consequently Korea became a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the first 'Tiger' to join, and only the second East Asian member of the organisation after Japan.  This entry also meant that Korea has become accepted as free democratic nation as well as a country with a well-developed market economy (Access Korea, 1999).  However, by emphasising the industrial sector, Korea's export-oriented development strategy leaves the rural sector relatively under-developed.  The increasing rate of income disparity between the urban and rural areas is a serious problem. (Lee Dong Bae, 1996).   

            A significant structural problem of the Korean economy is the chaebol [conglomerate] which have been leading the Korean economy and which invested and expanded their business with loans from Centre countries.  As with Japan the high ratio loan was a weak point of the Korean economy.  The chaebol is a family-owned and managed group of companies that exercises monopolistic or oligopolistic control.  Families of chaebols usually marry among themselves (e.g., 31 out of 33 chaebols' children married within chaebols) which accelerates the expansion of chaebols.   

            These big conglomerates enjoy high incomes by oppressing Korean workers.  However, social movements have challenged their rule since the late 1980s.  The labour and management confrontation began in 1987, when workers formed unions demanding increased wages and better work conditions (Song Byung Nak, 1994).  Due to union activism wages increased by 20% in 1988, and 25% in 1989.  Throughout the 1980s, wages were increased by more than 70% (Macdonald, 1990).  Fearing that this kind of union movement could reduce international competitiveness, and also increase barriers to international trade, Korean companies began to invest overseas.  The government liberalised the regulations on outgoing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 1991 (Sakong, 1993).  Though they struggled to resist the company's decision, after the IMF crisis, unionists lost their ground.  Hyundai unions, for example, agreed to accept massive lay-offs. (Yoo Cheong Mo, 1998).   

            Since the end of the Cold War, the Korean government diversified its diplomatic channels in order to attain better economic benefits and political relationships.  Korea formed diplomatic relationships with Russia in 1990, China in 1992, and most other formerly communist countries since.  These changes have eased the way for Korean companies to go abroad all over the world.  Korean firms invested in Eastern European countries in Northern, Southern and Central America, in Britain, German and France, in Nigeria and South Africa, in the Middle East; and South East Asian countries such as Indonesia and Thailand.  Most outgoing investments involved labour-intensive manufacturing sectors such as textiles, clothing, footwear, and electronic and automobile parts.  But nowadays the FDI is conducted with motor vehicles and other transportation equipment in the places where electric and electronics industries are already established (Sakong, 1993). 

            However, industrialization produced still other problems, such as serious environmental pollution.  Seoul is the most polluted area in Korea.   Its air contains 0.056 parts per million of sulfur dioxide (Macdonald, 1990).  The pollution of drinking water in Seoul and surrounding areas is also increasing.  Thus environmental authorities have suggested that the government invest US$700 million to improve water quality (Kim Mi Hyun, 1998).  In addition, Korean seas, in particular the South and West, are badly polluted, and the rural areas are also negatively affected.   Moreover, Chinese pollution spreading over Korean territories makes the problem even worse.  This is because most Chinese manufacturing areas are located on the northeastern or eastern coastal areas, and their pollution is carried toward South Korea by the wind. 


2.4 Cultural Changes

            The salaries of Korean workers have increased significantly since they formed unions in 1987 (Song Byung Nak, 1994).   The emergence of a middle class and the availability of a surplus income have changed consumption patterns drastically.  Most families own new cars, have air conditioning and colour television, and go on domestic and overseas holidays.  Generally speaking, the city space in Korea is very similar to Western cities.  There are McDonalds, shopping malls, simulated environments, theme parks and so forth in Korea.  Yet, some cultural features of New Times are distinctive. 

            Although gender inequality persists, change ahs appeared.   Traditionally, women looked after and educated children.  Although the social position of women has increased since the Kabo reform in 1894 (Kuznets, 1994), female workers are paid less, and male babies are preferred to female ones.   Opportunities for female workers to receive promotions are restricted.  Also females usually continue to perform housework as well as wage work.  A study of textbooks used in Koran school showed that female characters in the books were stereotypes of traditional Korean women, performing such duties as looking after children and doing housework, which contradicts Korea's present society.  Byun Eun Mi (1998) Pointed out:

Textbooks still propagate traditional gender roles that men work and women stay at home… women's' roles have dramatically changed from the past both at home and work, but textbooks fail to reflect the changes in role properly… the rate of female illustrations or pictures appearing in textbooks improved considerably from a decade ago.  But stereotypical descriptions of women still remain.  As for working women, they are limited to traditional jobs associated with women such as teachers or nurses… historic figures of men dominate textbooks.  Of 4,692 people appearing in textbooks, only 2.9 percent, or 135, were women.  Moreover, 46.7 percent of those women were monarchs or royal family members, followed by artists (30.4 percent), independence fighters (9.6 percent) and philosophers or scholars (3.7 percent). (p. 1)


           In addition, although those who live in urban areas enjoy a wider and better range of consumer goods including overseas trips (Byun Eun Mi, 1998) because of the rapid increase of nuclear families, and the concentration of population in urban areas, the housing supply ratio has worsened. 

Scrutiny of well-being in New Times in Korea reveals an uneven picture.   Industrialisation and urbanisation have brought many problems such as crime, traffic accidents, more orphans, increased divorce rates, social alienation, and the breaking down of people's old identities and traditional familial relationships. 

Koreans express concern over the destruction of regional cultures occurring during New Times.   The legitimation of Seoul dominated cultures must be shifted to the diversification of local cultures and traditions.  If there is no local culture, there is no central culture.  Moon Jung Gil (1998) argues that "local authorities in Korea need to build upon the uniqueness of their industry, culture and historical natural treasures to compete in the international field" (p. 1).  According to Hall (1997) and Luke (1997a), in New Times, images and representations are also of focal importance.  Tourism and the leisure industry will be very important in New Times.   Unique local images, cultures and traditions must be preserved, revitalised and commodified.  The local authorities' efforts towards internationalisation will increase the international competitiveness of local economies which will help to bolster the national economy ultimately (Moon Jung Gil, 1998).

3. The Analysis of Textbooks in New Times

3.1 Overview  

The Korean education system and practices have not been significantly changed in New Times except for the formation of a teachers' union in 1998.  Thus, Korean textbooks do not depict the general context of the Korean New Times.  Rather, they highlight environmental issues ideologically and heavily, and present postmodern cultural activities such as leisure, sports and new technologies, especially computers.   Textbooks omit changes in the political and economic arenas, local cultures, and the relationship between them, and reunification of North and South Korea.  They also exclude negative points such as regionalism, poverty, and dirty, polluted areas.    Textbooks open a window on the warp in which the ideologies and policy choices of dominant groups are inculcated. 

In textbooks, people increased income by spending on leisure and sports.  Family members often go on picnics to places where nature is protected, or else to places where nature (or the characteristic of nature) is created artificially.  Revealing global economic influences, textbooks introduce a trading ship which carries Korean products abroad.  The desire for reunification is mentioned once.  In order to collect the textbooks listed in Table 1, I searched the Korean Central library and Kyobo mungo [the biggest book store in Korea].  I collected Korean language textbooks which were used for Grades 1 and 2 in Korea from 1989 to 1997.  Table 1 shows the details of the collected textbooks (See appendix).    

3.2 Environmental Issues  

           After Japanese colonisation in 1945, and the Korean civil war in 1953, most poor Korean people endeavoured to escape from severe poverty.  So Korean leaders focused on rapid economic growth without considering fully the side effects of industrialisation.  Therefore, Korea's beautiful mountains, rivers and seas have been polluted and destroyed.  The Korean government started reforestation in the 1970s, and as a result, about 28% of Korean forests owned by the Korean government and local governments were reforested by 1985.   The Korean government continues to push for reforestation in all Korean mountains.    Korean textbooks reflect elite concern over environmental destruction. 

            The following story is chosen from Kugö 1-1 Reading (KED, 1997b), published for Grade 1-Semester 1, because it depicts the negative effects of industrialisation.

                       The songs of insects

1.     There was a little pond in the forest.

2.     There was a tall tree.

3.     The sky is blue.

4.     On the pond the blue sky came down.

5.     The white cloud is floating. 

6.     A little frog is singing by the pond.

7.     An insect is singing in the tree.

8.     A little frog is telling the insect the story of the pond. 

9.     The insect is also telling the little frog the story of the forest. 

10.  A little frog and an insect are singing together in a friendly mood.

11.  People are crowding to the forest.

12.  They eat their lunch by the pond.

13.  People sang songs and played hide and seek games.

14.  The little frog hid in the middle of the pond. 

15.  People threw rubbish here and there.

16.  The forest became dirty and the water of the pond became polluted.

17.  Now the sky does not come down any more.

18.  Odigatnunji [Nor is the little frog seen].

19.  The little frog did not answer even though the insect called it so many times.

20.  Now the insect has no friends to play with. (pp. 78-81, my translation)


            This story emphasizes on green ideology.  The surface agents of this story are children who destroyed nature, and nature is the object.  But the omitted real agents of the destruction of the environment are the industrial companies such as Samsung, Hyundai, and Daewoo.  The story portrays animals such as frogs and insects as agents.  Pictorially, the little frog and the insect are described in bigger shapes, while the children are depicted in smaller forms.  The space between the little frog and the insect is very close, which implies an intimate relationship.  The distance between the animals and the children is public distance, meaning they do not have an intimate relationship (Kress and Leween, 1990).  The story actually features children as destroyers of nature.  This is done by showing them from a high angle, so their roles are diminished and they are depicted negatively.  

                 According to Macdonald (1990), 75% of Korean waste is industrial, initiated by the Korean government and multinational companies.     However, the story portrays young readers acting as agents of pollution throwing their rubbish into the forest and lakes.    The story also argues that pollution equals rubbish.  Yet this is an ideological misrepresentation of the cause of the pollution.  This text is clearly constructed in the interests of multinational companies or Korean chaebols.  Even if we stop throwing away rubbish, industrial pollution will remain.  

            Lines 18 to 20 imply that the children made the frog disappear.  To where?  The Korean expression "odigatnunju," which means 'not clear where it has gone' in line 18 and "did not answer" in line 19 suggests that the frog was killed by the pollution.  But the story expresses in a euphemistic way such as "hid" in line 14, "odigatnunji" and "did not answer" in Line 19.  The special verb "play" which in the Korean version is "nol" and only used by children, is used in the story in order to stress how sad the main characters, the insect and the frog were, and to appeal to the emotions of the children more.  

Actually the young readers of this text are victims of the government's economic policies.  Why did they go to the forest?  Why could they not play near their house and go for a picnic in the parks?  Most natural spaces are ruined or polluted in urban areas, and not by children.  But the book criticises only children, without presenting the real cause of the environmental problems.  

What does the little frog symbolise?  It could be nature or environment, but ultimately it is the life of human beings.  Contemporary environmental crises are generalised universal problems caused by modernisation.  Ironically, they are the product of the scientific management of society and nature (Turner, 1994).  Beck (1992) has pointed out the ecological crisis is not "observable, local and personal", but rather "unobservable, global and impersonal" which brings "the boomerang effect" to which the country is impervious.  In fact, Chinese factories which send much air pollution to Korea, are part of the boomerang effect, because Korean companies relocated many pollution emitting factories to China.    

3.3 Leisure and Consumption

            The centre of the postmodern world is consumerism or entertainment.  People in Korea like to go to theme parks and museums for leisure activities.  The Korean textbook, Kugö 2-1 Speaking and Listening (KED, 1991d), published for Grade 2-Semester 1 depicts the theme park in pictorial form (p. 93).  

This story constructs the world of leisure by presenting places such as theme parks where there are ferris-wheels and the roller-coasters.  The picture on page 93 shows that Korean natural spaces are reorganised for postmodern simulation of spaces by the effect of industrialisation and urbanisation.  The natural setting is vague, while the artificial facilities are presented clearly.  

Korean parents and children often go on picnics in rural areas and by the ocean.    Kugö 1-1 Reading (KED, 1997b), published for Grade 1-Semester 1 describes the family picnic (page 5).  This story represents the idealistic and imaginary picnic place in a rural area.  The characters in the story are middle class urban citizens as shown.  All family members are smiling in the natural environment. The cow is looking at the family and the ducks are moving towards the girl.  But this picture does not look real.  Only the family members can be seen here; if it is a rural area, there must be farmers.  It is common to see farmers working on their farms in Korea.  Yet the story excludes farmers from the rural place by depicting only a cow, farmland and its surroundings.  Whose interest does this story serve?  It is the urban citizen's interest.  Urban citizens have no place at home for their picnic sites, so they go to rural areas to have a picnic.  This story constructs the rural areas from an urban citizens' point of view as being recreational places for urban citizens. Wild ducks in Korea always fly away if humans approach them.  But this story misportrays Korean nature by suggesting that wild ducks and humans are very close.  The water is blue and clean, which is imaginary water.  It is very hard to find such water in Korea because most is polluted, or under the process of pollution. 

I also chose another story quoted from Kugö 1-1 Reading (KED, 1997b) and published for Grade 1-Semester 1 which describes leisure; a girl's trip to the beach with her father (pp. 54-67).  

The conceptual image of the sea is constructed by introducing the cohesive lexicals such as a seagull, the sea, a lighthouse, sand, a boat, a yacht and waves.   The general colour of this picture is less natural.  The girl is pointing to the boat, but she does not turn in the direction of the boat, which seems unnatural. 

Following father

1.     Eunju went to the sea following [Taraseo] her father. 

2.     She went to the sea by train.

3.     There was a boat on the sea.

4.     The sand is shining on the beach.

5.     There is a cloud in the sky.

6.     Seagulls are flying…

7.     Eunju is returning home, following her father.

8.     She is coming by bus.

9.     She is talking about the sea with her mother. 

10.  She is talking about blue seas, white clouds, sandy beaches, and seagulls. 

11.  Eunju wants to go to the sea again. (pp. 64-67, my translation

            There are no people on the beach except Eunju and her father.  In Korea, beaches are polluted, but crowded with people.  The beach in this story looks very clean and quiet.  This looks like a real paradise, but is an imaginary place.  The story also exaggerates by preseenting shining sand, not dirty sand in line 4, and "blue seas", not a polluted sea, in line 10.   In order to highlight an unpolluted nature, this story uses the repetition of vocabularies "sea or beach," seven times; "seagulls" and "sand," twice.  There is no such place in Korea.   Although textbooks depict domestic travel, they fail to represent overseas travel, which is common among Korean citizens.  Why omit this?  It may be the nationalistic tendency or political ideology which encourages Koreans to spend their income in Korea, not overseas.  

Korean people in New Times play more sports and games.  As leisure and sports have become a part of postmodern societies, the perception of sports and exercise changed.  Korea traditionally puts less emphasis than Western societies on physically strenuous sports and games, and more on socialising for recreation and amusement (Macdonald, 1990).  But nowadays people like most sports, and are often encouraged to exercise in the morning, and on the weekends to exercise in the mountains.   Because it depicts sports/exercise activities, I chose the following story quoted from Kugö 1-1 Reading (KED, 1997b) published for Grade 1-Semester 1 (pp. 30-33).

Sunday Morning  

  1. Sunday morning, we go to the hill.
  1. We go to the hill with our father.
  2. One, two, three, four.
  3. We exercise.
  4. We exercise with our father.
  5. Sunday afternoon, we play soccer.
  6. We played soccer with our friend.
  7. We played soccer enthusiastically.
  8. Sunday evening, we study.
  9. We study with our sisters.
  10. We study gladly. (pp. 30-33, my translation)

            Although the text shows exercise in the mountains, not many Koreans can go there.  This is misrepresentation of Korean society.  All animate characters such as three family members, a dog and two squirrels are involved in exercise.  But the family and a dog, which is human like, are near, while the wild squirrels are placed at a far distance, showing that they are a part of nature.  This story sets the normative universe about what children have to do.  Children's preferential activities depend on circumstances (Table 9).  

Children go to the hill to exercise.  Also, they play soccer during the daytime, but the picture is in a school (page 32).  Not many children go to school on Sunday because it is closed.  The story uses the homogenising pronoun "we" 10 times except for line 3, but it excludes female characters.  For example in the daytime activities boys only played soccer, and the mother does not go to the hill in the morning to exercise.  The "we" in lines 6 to 8 does not include females, while the "we" in other lines includes both genders.  The exclusion of female characters shows that the textbooks in New Times are still gender biased.    In order to give favourable feelings about study, the book uses "gladly" in line 11; it also uses "Sunday" (line 9) to stress the necessity of study even when school is not in session.  

Changing patterns of leisure within a culture of consumption cannot be described without a description of changed postmodern cities.  

Harvey (1995) sees postmodern cities as disperse, decentralised and deconstructed.    Harvey (1995) also sees these cities as being formed according to aesthetic aims and principles, without particular regard to social objectives.  So bookshops, stationary shops, public bathrooms and hospitals are together in the book Kugö 2-1 Speaking and Listening (KED, 1991d), published for Grade 2-Semester 1 (p. 60). 

The story constructs postmodern spaces of Korea.  The picture is taken at a high oblique angle, so it excludes the readers and diminishes the participants, constructing ideal readers (Kress & Leeuwen, 1990).  Boys are taken at an 'intimate distance' so they have a close relationship with the other boys.  But one girl is playing on a swing and another girl is coming out of the bookstore some distance from the boys.  So the books describe gender distances.  This though is an unreal picture, because most urban Korean space is occupied by cars which are parked everywhere, but there are no cars here.            

The reunification issue is crucially important for all Koreans in New Times, and this issue appears also in children’s textbooks.   I quote the following example from Kugö 2-1 Reading (KED, 1991f) which was published for Grade 2-Semester 1. 

A story of balloons  

1.   Two balloons are floating higher and flying farther.  Mt. Kumgang is seen.  It is very beautiful.

2.   "I wish people could see Mt. Kumgang as freely as us," said the blue balloon.

3.   "Yes, well, let's pray it will be done,"

4.   the red balloon said to the blue balloon

5.   The red balloon and the blue balloon floated higher. (pp. 118-119, my translation)

             This story uses metaphor, where "balloon" stands for people.  People in line 2 symbolise the citizens in South Korea.  The story portrays the hope for unification and free access to travel to North Korea.  However, even though the balloons raise the issues of unification and free access to Mt. Kumgang, they silence the cause of separation and the barriers to reunification, which prevent South Koreans from visiting North Korea.

4. Summary and suggestions  

The Korean economy and its international status has increased during the globalised era.  The National Textbooks Publishing Company (NTPC) has not been supported by American aid and academic advisers.  Thus American influences have not been obvious in Korean textbooks during the globalised era.  Through the influences of industrialisation and globalisation, textbooks portray Korean postmodern spaces along with an emphasis on green ecology, leisure and consumption.  In addition, the textbooks also show disorganised city spaces and rural areas.  Many stories represent the seriousness of pollution.  The textbooks depict how daily cultural lives have changed to include such historically new practices as going on family picnics, leisure activities, doing exercise and sports in urban spaces or mountains, and mass consumption-based cultures.  The importance of study is also stressed because the Korean educational system has not changed during the globalised era. 


Yet, textbooks fail to describe Korean history and geography.  No historical figures are represented in the postmodern period.   The selective tradition of New Times also excludes many real images and representations of Korea.  Korean textbooks omit gender and regional discrimination, poor people and crime.  Instead, textbooks misrepresent polluted areas as clean, natural places in spite of urbanisation and industrialisation, and criticise children as if they are the causes of pollution.  Although families go on picnics to rural places where nature is preserved, these are actually imaginary places. 


These kind of portrayals express many gender, class and regional discriminations.  Textbooks focus on urban residents who go to rural areas for a picnic, on a holiday, or to the beach, but they exclude rural residents or fishery workers.  Thus, textbooks depict urban residents as richer and more powerful than rural people.  Textbooks’ characters are mostly middle class characters, thereby silencing poor/lower class citizens.  Especially on the issues of politics and economics, there are  many consistent omissions in the books.  Regional, gender and racial discrimination (for example, of Chinese-Koreans and other minor Asian workers), unbalanced development of Korea between the rural areas and the city areas, the union movement and student unrest appear often in newspapers, or on other media, but they are all omitted from the books.  Korean cities have many common points with Western countries, such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Coca-Cola, but these foreign elements are all omitted.  Korea has many distinctive local cultures.  The Korean government has begun to shift its power to local government since 1990, and these local governments endeavour to preserve and make use of their local uniqueness.  Yet, by presenting middle class cultures centred on Seoul predominantly, the textbooks fail to portray local culture.   They only describe two different geographical locations, city and country.  The textbooks introduced one story about unification, but this story failed to portray the real cause of the division and the way to achieve reunification.  Overall, textbooks in New Times make significant references to leisure, sports and environmental issues, but they are portrayed using dominant ideologies, without considering the lower class or poor people.   

            I suggest the following: First, genuine and diverse children's worlds must be integrated into textbooks used in schools.   The overall cultural representations, themes and textual information do not portray a realistic Korean children's world and interests sufficiently.  This constitutes an adult colonisation of childhood (Baker & Freebody, 1989).   

            Reading textbooks biased toward middle class and wealthier elites may alienate students of the lower classes, who cannot see themselves in these pages.    Class and social inequalities can be reproduced through schooling by using textbooks (Bowles & Gintis, 1976).  Curriculum including textbooks must be class inclusive and should reflect real children’s varied world.   In order to achieve this, it is essential to integrate the language forms and language content which reflect the diverse child's world in the textbooks.   Finally, textbooks must allow students to have critical views.   So students can analyse the texts from the media such as newspapers, and the internet (Luke, 1995/6).   Future citizens of New Times must perceive themselves, not as victims, but as agents making history.