Japanese Minister of Education
By Jeong Nam-ku, Tokyo correspondent
“Our curriculum covers both North and South Korea. Our educational goal is to train talented workers who can be productive members of a united Korea. All we do is teach our students about the Korean language and history. What in the world makes the Joseon School different from other schools for foreigners?”
Shin Gil-ung, 63, the principal of the Tokyo Joseon Middle and High School, spoke by phone to Hankyoreh reporters on Dec. 26. His voice was trembling, as earlier that day, the Japanese newspaper the Yomiuri Shimbun had reported that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party had made clear that it intended to exclude so-called “Joseon schools” from the list of state-supported high schools (schools whose students are eligible for tuition vouchers).
“The Abe administration has resolved to make the Joseon schools ineligible to become free high schools,” reported the Yomiuri Shimbun. “This reflects the strong opinion of Hakubun Shimomura, former deputy chief cabinet secretary, who has been appointed as minister of education.”
“The Abe administration has decided that, since the Japanese government under Abe’s leadership is continuing financial sanctions on North Korea due to its experimentation with nuclear weapons and missiles, it cannot waive tuition for schools that are affiliated with Chongryeon, or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan,” the newspaper reported.
Since April 2010, the Japanese government has been providing a subsidy that corresponds to the annual tuition per student, which ranges from 120,000 to 240,000 yen (US$1,394-$2,788). However, it has not been providing this subsidy for Joseon schools, and it has kept delaying the final review, which would determine whether or not these schools are eligible to receive the subsidy.
Considering that the metropolitan area of Tokyo and other regional governments have already stopped providing financial aid to Joseon schools, if the schools are kept off the list of free public schools, they will have even fewer options for keeping their doors open. For the past two years, Tokyo, Osaka, and other areas where right-leaning politicians have come to power have stopped providing Joseon schools with the financial aid that other foreign schools receive. This was prompted by suspicions that education at the school is anti-Japanese and tries to justify the acts of the North Korean government.
The Joseon schools were built to provide Korean education for Koreans in Japan who had gone to Japan during the colonial period and were unable to return home afterward. Effectively, these are the only schools that teach Korean language and history to the Korean Japanese.
After 1950, the Joseon schools received a substantial amount of financial aid from the North Korean government. However, after North Korea ran into serious financial trouble, this aid was almost entirely cut off.
At present, there are around 8,000 students attending 73 such schools in Japan, about half of whom have South Korean nationality. 1800 of these students are in high school, and of the 470 enrolled at the Tokyo Joseon Middle and High School, 53% are citizens of South Korea.
The Second Tokyo Bar Association and other organizations have criticized the suspension of financial aid for Joseon schools and the decision that these schools cannot become free high schools, describing the acts as discrimination that is in violation of the constitution. Despite these efforts, the Japanese government‘s policy of wiping out the Joseon schools is only accelerating.
“As the financial situation of the Joseon schools continues to deteriorate, some schools in the countryside are no longer even able to pay their teachers’ salaries on time,” said Shin, principal at the school.
“The Joseon schools are a product of Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea. On a rational level, it’s hard to understand why the Japanese government feels it necessary to discriminate against educational aid.”
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