North Korean residents vow to wreck Tokyo's Olympic bid over funding threat to schools
North Korean residents vow to wreck Tokyo's campaign to host the games if it reduces or abolishes funding to schools loyal to Pyongyang
North Korean residents of Japan have responded to plans to drastically reduce or abolish subsidies to North Korean schools by vowing to wreck Tokyo's campaign to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
The Japanese government said in December that it would amend an ordinance that provided subsidies worth roughly ¥15,000 (HK$1,245) per month for every student at 27 high schools for foreign students across the country. However, the measure is clearly aimed at schools that are allied with Pyongyang.
When announcing the decision - one of the first policy moves of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new Liberal Democratic Party government - Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura confirmed that the measure had been taken because there had been no progress in resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.
No mention was made of Pyongyang's nuclear programme or its development of nuclear missiles, although both have been causing a great deal of alarm among Japan's government and its public.
But members of Chosen Soren, the association of North Korean residents of Japan, say world politics should have no bearing on education matters and have described the decision as "inhuman" and a "very mean and unjust discrimination".
"Such a measure should be condemned as an infringement of Korean high school students' rights to equal education opportunities," said Shin Gil-ung, principal of the Tokyo Korean Junior and Senior High School.
Across Japan, there are about 60 schools - from kindergartens to universities - that are affiliated with Chosen Soren and are fiercely loyal to Pyongyang.
Portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il hang in classrooms, just as they would in a school in Pyongyang, while students are taught North Korea's views on politics, history and economics.
In their history classes, for example, they are taught that the Korean War broke out in 1950 after South Korea and America invaded the North. Pupils also get a thorough grounding in hero-worship of the Kim family.
Around 10,000 children of ethnic Koreans attend the schools, which were set up after the second world war to teach the children of Koreans brought to Japan as forced labourers in the early decades of the last century. The enrolment number of 10,000 is down from the 40,000 that attended Chosen Soren schools in the 1970s, and it is likely that figure will decline if Tokyo decides to single them out for special treatment when it comes to funding.
"These measures by the Japanese central and local governments are outright human rights infringements, violations of the Constitution of Japan, which provides for equality for all under the law, the International Human Rights Bills ... and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination," Shin said.
Chosen Soren said it had no choice but to retaliate against the decision through the Japanese courts, but it is also appealing for support from the International Olympic Committee.
"The discriminatory measures against Korean schools by the Japanese central and municipal governments violate the Olympic Charter, which forbids 'any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics or otherwise'," Shin said. "Tokyo would not be appropriate for the site of the Olympic Games if such discrimination continues."
It also appears that precedent may very well support the North Korean residents, as Nagoya was short-listed as the host of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. But a human-rights group based in the city wrote a letter to the IOC before the final decision was made to complain about the local authority's regulation on teachers at public schools holding Japanese nationality.
It was never disclosed whether that complaint swayed the Olympic judges' minds, but North Korean residents of Japan plan to use a similar tactic if their demands for the subsidies to be reinstated are not met.