Group seeks changes in USFK pamphlet
October 18, 2007
SEOUL — They’ve already taken on the CIA and National Geographic Society.
Now an organization known for e-mail and letter-writing campaigns demanding changes to geographic names on maps and historical information in textbooks has set its sights on the U.S. military.
The Voluntary Agency Network of Korea, a group whose efforts, according to their Web site, have led to National Geographic and the CIA World Fact Book using the name East Sea as opposed to the Sea of Japan, sent a letter Friday to U.S. Forces Korea asking for changes in a pamphlet servicemembers get in newcomer orientations.
Park Ki-tae, a VANK spokesman, said the 8th Army’s Korea Head Start Program pamphlet can mislead servicemembers into believing Korea’s history is much shorter than it is by omitting what VANK believes are key historical eras.
According to Park, the pamphlet starts Korea’s history in the Silla dynasty beginning in 57 B.C., and omits Korea’s Gojoseon and Three Kingdoms periods which began about 5,000 years ago.
“We think USFK mistakenly borrowed the Korean history that is completely wrong and misleading from an unfounded source,” Park said.
“Also, the way of their explaining it can give incorrect historical view to the readers who first begin to learn Korea.”
Park also said VANK believes the pamphlet was published without properly checking historical accuracy.
Eighth U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Broderick Bailey said there would be no change to the pamphlet based on VANK’s complaints, though a change to the pamphlet’s size is in the works.
“The Head Start booklet is compiled from several Korean and English sources and is designed to introduce a few aspects of Korean language, history, culture and geography to servicemembers who are new to the peninsula,” Bailey said in an e-mail Monday. “The book is not intended to be a complete history of Korea.”
The purpose is to encourage intercultural communication and understanding between U.S. Army personnel and South Koreans, he added.
“It is only one of many tools the command uses to do so,” Bailey said.
Park said VANK does not expect the entirety of Korean history to be explained in the space alotted by a single pamphlet.
“But explaining a landmark historical event should be correct and accurate, and not misleading to the U.S. servicemembers serving in Korea,” he said. “If they are really our allied nation, they should try to understand their history correctly.”
Park said VANK is still awaiting a response from USFK.
USFK spokesman David Oten said the pamphlet was accurate, though abbreviated.
“Summarizing Korean history in two paragraphs left out one of the dynasties,” Oten said. “To be that comprehensive in a two-paragraph blurb is almost impossible.”