Seoul: The government will redesignate Korean history as an essential subject at high schools next year to help students have a positive view of the national history and culture, the education ministry said on Friday.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the National Institute of Korean History announced a set of measures to intensify Korean history education at schools, including its redesignation as a compulsory subject at high schools.

The move is seen as a measure to deal effectively with Japan's unwavering claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo and attempts to whitewash its colonial past as well as China's distortion of Northeast Asian history involving the ancient Korean kingdoms.

Korean history, which has long been a requirement for all students, became an optional subject in high schools this year as part of the government's efforts to simplify the curriculum.

The decision, however, has triggered concerns that students would choose easier subjects than Korean history, and by doing so, would fail to gain an "upright view" of history.

The government will change the entire curriculum of history education and textbooks being used at elementary, middle and high schools to increase students' interest in Korean history, according to the ministry.

Also included in the government plan was requiring all teacher applicants to submit a state certificate of level three or higher regarding Korean history knowledge beginning in 2013.

The government will also consider making Korean history an essential subject for all civil service exams, the ministry said.