SEOUL -- Some major science textbook publishers for South Korea's secondary schools have deleted examples of Darwinism, bowing to petitions by a group that calls evolution "an unconfirmed theory."
Of the seven major science textbook publishers in South Korea, three have agreed to remove or revise references to the evolution of horses, and six publishers deleted or changed chapters related to avian evolution.
The decision was made after the Society for Textbook Revision, or STR, filed petitions in December and March with South Korea's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology against the inclusion of the information.
Since its formation in 2009, the STR has continuously challenged the teaching of the evolution in South Korea.
"We are an academic research society that aims to delete the errors [relating to] evolution, which is an unconfirmed theory," STR President Lee Gwang-won said. "It is important to revise the textbooks and teach the students that evolution is just one of the theories, as it affects how students form their view of the world. "
Lee denied his organization is affiliated with Christian groups or creationist scientists. But Han Jungyeol, spokesman for the Korea Assn. for Creation Research, told the science journal Nature that the STR is an independent offshoot of his association.
South Korean academics expressed confusion over the publishers' decision, assigning some blame to the government's education ministry because it forwarded the petitions to the publishers without any academic reviews or expert consultation.
"It is hard to believe that such a one-sided petition was easily accepted like this," said Choe Jae-cheon, a scientist at Ewha Woman's University in Seoul. "The education ministry included 'science and technology' in their name, but it is not paying enough attention to the importance of rightful science education."
One of the publishers that revised its texts, Kyohaksa, was quoted by local media as saying the fact that there was an apparent scientific controversy over the issue prompted its decision.
But Jang Dayk, a scientist at Seoul National University, said the publishers' position was not acceptable. He said the scientific community had ignored the STR up to now "because it was unworthy to confront them. The quality of their argument is sophomoric and based on distorted information."
But the latest move by textbook publishers, Dayk said, has galvanized the scientific community, pushing it to act. "We have formed a task force and will put out a statement to halt the textbook revision."