South Korean Textbooks Reject Evolution

Opponents of evolution have won a big victory in South Korea's schools

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Julie Delton


In South Korea, a growing antievolution movement has successfully laid claim to young students’ minds — or, at least, their textbooks. The country’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced last month that many South Korean textbook publishers will begin producing revised editions that will for the first time exclude discussions and examples of evolution. Biologists in Seoul are alarmed by the move, noting that scientists were not consulted by the ministry in this decision, reports the journal Nature.

The controversy should be familiar to Americans, who in recent years have watched several states spar over the constitutionality of teaching alternative theories in public schools. But while Americans have seen the theory of intelligent design make inroads against Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, South Korea’s latest changes are unabashedly rooted in the Book of Genesis.

(MORE: The Evolution Wars)

For instance, the country’s leading science institute, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, has a creationism display on its campus. And in 2008, the Korea Association of Creation Research (KACR) sponsored a very successful exhibition on creationism at Seoul Land, a popular amusement park. KACR claims that the exhibition attracted more than 116,000 visitors in just a few months and that the park is now considering extending the program for up to a year.

About a third of South Koreans surveyed in 2009 for a documentary titled The Era of God and Darwin said they did not believe in evolution, a figure consistent with the global average, according to an Ipsos/Reuters poll. Yet efforts to institutionalize “creation science” seem to be more successful in South Korea than in the U.S., which maintains a higher proportion of evolutionary skeptics.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil all outrank South Korea in percentage of the population that believes in creationism, according to the Ipsos/Reuters poll. Conversely, Sweden, Germany, China, Belgium and Japan boast the highest proportion of evolutionists.

MORE: Are We Sliding Backward on Teaching Evolution?