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(LEAD) President Moon orders singing of 'liberal' song, end to state textbooks

2017/05/12 15:14

(ATTN: CHANGES slug; RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with reports of the president also ordering reinstating a controversial protest song as official part of a government ceremony marking the 1980 democratic uprising in paras 2-9)

SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in continued to surprise many Friday, at least to the liking of many liberals, ordering the official playing and singing of a controversial protest song shunned over the past decade at an annual ceremony marking a democratic uprising.

The president signed an executive order, allowing the official use of "March for the Beloved" at the annual ceremony held May 18, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

It marked only the second executive order signed by the new president who came into office Wednesday, following his landslide victory in a presidential by-election on the day before.

The file photo, taken May 10, 2017, shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) signing his first executive order on the creation of a new government committee on jobs. The new South Korean leader signed his second executive order on May 12, 2017, abolishing state-authored history textbooks and reinstating a controversial protest song as an official part of a government ceremony marking the 1980 democratic uprising in Gwangju, 350 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap) The file photo, taken May 10, 2017, shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) signing his first executive order on the creation of a new government committee on jobs. The new South Korean leader signed his second executive order on May 12, 2017, abolishing state-authored history textbooks and reinstating a controversial protest song as an official part of a government ceremony marking the 1980 democratic uprising in Gwangju, 350 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The song had been an official part of the ceremony marking the 1980 pro-democracy movement in Gwangju, located some 350 kilometers south of Seoul, since 1997, but the former conservative Lee Myung-bak government had the song performed by a choir instead since 2009.

Demands to have the song reinstated as an official song of the ceremony had again gone unanswered or rejected over the past five years under the former Park Geun-hye government.

Moon's order will bring back the song as an official part of the ceremony starting this year, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

The event marks Gwangju citizens' uprising in 1980 against military rulers that seized power through a coup the previous year. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands of others injured.

Playing the song and making everyone sing along at the ceremony had been one of Moon's election pledges.

On Thursday, Moon accepted the resignation of Park Sung-choon, the minister of patriots and veterans affairs, who had banned participants from singing the song in unison. Park had led the ministry since 2011.

Again fulfilling his campaign pledges, Moon also ordered the scrapping of controversial history textbooks authored by a government committee set up under the former conservative administration.

"As efforts to normalize history education, the president has ordered the abolition of state authored history textbooks," Moon's chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan told a press briefing.

Starting next year, schools will again be allowed to choose from any history textbooks that have been verified by the government.

"The decision reflected the president's firm belief that history education must not be used for any political gains," Yoon said.

The government began publishing history textbooks this year after the former Park Geun-hye administration accused textbooks authored by private publishers as biased and pro-North Korea.

Many liberals, however, had accused the former president of trying to fill history textbooks with her own biases, including a glorified version of the military dictatorship of her own late father Park Chung-hee. During the campaign, Moon pledged to abolish the state-authored textbooks.

Only some 80 middle and high schools, accounting for 1.5 percent of the total, have said they would use the state-authored history textbooks in their curricula.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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