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Education

Japan slashes funds for pro-Pyongyang schools

The new right-of-center Japanese government has announced that it will revise legislation that provides subsidies to schools in the country that teach North Korea's views on world history, economics and politics.

It seems that the Japanese government and taxpayers do not want to fund a parallel education system in the country that teaches North Korean students about the "evils” of Japan and its people. The new government wants to amend the law that allows certain schools to get subsidies from the central and local governments.

The warnings that Japan's national and local governments were going to withdraw funding for schools operated by Chosen Soren - the association of North Korean residents of Japan - have been hinted at for several years. But after getting re-elected in December, the Liberal Democratic Party decided to take an action against these schools.

In a press conference on December 28, education minister Hakubun Shimomura announced that the government was amending a law that provided subsidies worth some 15,000 yuan (120.50 euros) to every student per month at 39 high schools for foreign students across Japan. In addition, a number of new prefectural governments have come out and said they will no longer provide money to schools which promote North Korea's world view.

Prefectures scrap support

The latest prefectures to scrap financial support to pro-Pyongyang schools are Kanagawa, which provided 63 million yuan to these schools last year, and Yamaguchi, which has scrapped its 2.2 million yuan funding.

Crowds of North Koreans visiting the Mansu Hill in Pyongyang before statues of late President Kim Il-Sung and leader Kim Jong-Il on the first anniversary of leader Kim Jong-Il's death
(Photo: KNS/AFP/Getty Images)

Japanese nationalists say Chosen Soren schools spread anti-Japan propaganda

Across Japan, there are about 60 schools - ranging from kindergartens to universities - that are affiliated with Chosen Soren, and are fiercely loyal to the communist regime in Pyongyang.

That commitment to North Korea is reflected in the subjects that are taught in these schools and also in classrooms that have twin portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il staring out at students from above the blackboard, similar to what one finds in schools in North Korea.

Students in these schools are taught economics, politics, social sciences and history from a North Korean perspective.

For example, students are taught in their history classes that South Korea and the United States triggered the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 by invading the North.

At these schools, students also learn to eulogize the Kim dynasty which has monopolized control of the nation through three generations.

'Discriminatory'

Around 10,000 children of ethnic Koreans attend these schools, which were set up after World War II to educate the sons and daughters of Koreans which were brought to Japan as forced laborers in the early decades of the last century. After the war, around 1 million Koreans opted to remain in Japan.

The figure of 10,000 enrolled students is down significantly from the 40,000 that attended Chosen Soren schools in the 1970s, and it is likely that the figure will fall even further now that the Japanese government has decided to single them out for special treatment when it comes to funding.

Shin Gil-ung, principal of the Tokyo Korean Junior and Senior High School, is angry at what he considers to be blatant discrimination against his pupils. Shin thinks geo-political disputes and differences should play no part in educational matters. He says the government's decision is "very mean and discriminatory."

"Such a measure should be condemned as an infringement of Korean high school students' rights to equal education opportunities," Shin told DW. "These actions by the Japanese central and local governments are outright violations of human rights and the Constitution of Japan, which provide for equality for all under the law," he added.

A South Korean navy submarine launches an indigenous cruise missile during a drill at an undisclosed location in this picture released by the navy in Seoul February 14, 2013
(Photo: REUTERS/South Korean Navy/Handout)

International community has condemned Pyongyang's recent nuclear tests

Despite growing alarm in the Japanese government and among the public about the aggressive and unpredictable behavior of the regime in North Korea – which has recently conducted disguised test-launch of a long-range missile and the underground detonation of a nuclear device - some people in Japan are sympathetic towards the North Korean residents' "plight."

"The Korean schools are not doing anything illegal," Hiroshi Tanaka, a professor emeritus of Hitotsubashi University, told DW. "The education of a child should not be confused with international affairs."

Attacks on students

Hiroshi added that few years ago Korean girls stopped wearing the traditional "chima jeogori" school dress as it distinguished them from other students and made them targets of attacks by Japanese nationalists.

The North Korean media has also weighed into the argument in the past with the Rodong Sinmun daily stating in an editorial that the question of whether the schools should receive help from the government is "a product of the national chauvinist policy peculiar to Japan and its very old, vicious, hostile policy."

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued a statement in 2010 in which it expressed "concern about acts that have discriminatory effects on children's' education, including the approach of some politicians suggesting the exclusion of North Korean schools from the subsidy program."

But with support for the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe riding high at close to 73 percent, it seems that the Japanese public approves of the hard line the government is taking against the nation's immediate neighbors and their perceived efforts to encroach on Japan's sovereignty.

Experts say that it is unlikely that the government will back down on a domestic vote-winning policy that weakens North Korea and saves money for the nation.

DW.DE