Creationist success in South Korea?

A creationist campaign to remove references to evolution from high school biology textbooks in South Korea succeeded in May 2012, according to a report in Nature (June 5, 2012), when "the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology revealed that many of the publishers would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx." Also in the sights of the creationist campaign are references to the evolution of humans and the adaptations of the beak of the finch. All four are favorite targets of creationists, including the "intelligent design" movement. South Korean biologists are complaining that they were not consulted about the revisions; Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University, told Nature, "The ministry just sent the petition out to the publishing companies and let them judge."

The campaign was led by the Committee to Revise Evolution In Textbooks (which Nature calls "the Society for Textbook Revise"), an independent offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research. Support for creationism in South Korea is high: in The Creationists (Harvard University Press, 2006), Ronald L. Numbers described the country as "the creationist powerhouse" in Asia. And acceptance of evolution is comparatively low: 64% of South Koreans agreed with "human beings are developed from earlier species of animals" in 2002, as compared to 44% of respondents in the United States in 2004, 70% of respondents in China in 2001, and 78% of respondents in Japan in 2001.

Dayk Jang faulted the South Korean scientific community for its inaction and is now organizing a group of experts to counter the creationist campaign. "When something like this comes to fruition, the scientific community can be caught flat-footed," NCSE's Josh Rosenau told the New York Daily News (June 6, 2012). "Scientists are not by their nature political." South Korea is an up-and-coming scientific powerhouse, Rosenau said, adding that it's crucial to continue to teach evolution in schools if the county wants to compete on the international stage. "Evolution is the core of modern biological science," he said.

Updated on June 7, 2012, by the addition of the final four sentences.