The teenagers are immaculately dressed and pay close attention to the teacher's instructions. She writes a phrase on the blackboard and asks a girl to read a passage from the textbook. The rest then recite a sentence or two. Outside is a football pitch in immaculate condition, surrounded on three sides by low stands, and with floodlights in the corners. The rest of the school is similarly well cared for, with students' posters on the walls and all the other trappings of a run-of-the-mill school in a middle-class suburb of Tokyo. But this high school, in the Kita district of the Japanese capital, is very different from others in the neighbourhood. The teacher is wearing the traditional chogori dress of Korea, classes are primarily conducted in Korean and above the blackboard in each classroom, the portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il stare fixedly at the students. Across Japan, there are about 60 schools - ranging from kindergartens to universities - that are affiliated with Chosen Soren, the association of North Korean residents, and are fiercely loyal to the regime in Pyongyang. About 10,000 children of ethnic Koreans attend the schools, which were set up after the second world war to teach the sons and daughters of Koreans brought to Japan as forced labourers in the early decades of the last century. After the war, about one million opted to remain in Japan. The number of students is significantly lower than the 40,000 that attended Chosen Soren schools in their heyday in the 1970s, and it is likely that figure will fall even further if the Japanese government decides to single them out for special treatment when it comes to funding. In April, the new left-of-centre Democratic Party of Japan introduced a system under which the parents of every pupil at a high school in Japan receive up to 240,000 yen (HK$22,900) every year to help cover the costs of their education. Only Chosen Soren schools were left out of the programme and debate continues as to whether an education system that its critics claims 'brainwashes' children should receive the support of Japan's taxpayers. 'We believe our students have the right to receive the funds because their parents pay taxes, just like Japanese citizens, and it is unfair for us to be singled out like this,' Yun Te-gil, deputy headmaster of the Tokyo Korean High School, says. 'Korean parents send their children to this school because they want them to know about their heritage and ethnicity, but if our schools are excluded from the tuition aid programme, then that is discrimination,' he says, pointing out that other foreign schools are eligible for the funding scheme. A teacher instructs a mixed class of 26 students in the Korean language, while down the hallway another teacher has written 'My grandparents are visiting Pyongyang now' on the blackboard in an English class. Again, the faces of the two dictators who have run North Korea since its founding in 1948 keep a close eye on the students. 'They say our education is anti-Japanese and anti-Western, but that's not true,' says Yun, a history teacher. 'We teach them about what happened in Korea during Japan's colonisation period, which is what actually happened. These are the facts from our point of view.' When asked what the students are taught about the start of the Korean war in 1950, however, Yun looks more uncomfortable. 'We teach them that South Korea and the US invaded the North and that was what started the war.' And while education that paints North Korea in a heroic light works within that isolated nation, it is harder to make children swallow it in a country with freer access to information. Unsurprisingly, many Japanese are vehemently opposed to their taxes being spent on schools that instil Pyongyang's policies of hostility towards Japan and the US. Relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents have submitted a written request to the ministry of education that their opinions on the matter be heard. Shigeo Iizuka, the chairman of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, says: 'It is difficult to understand why the schools are eligible for the tuition waiver programme when Japan is imposing economic sanctions on North Korea.' Chosen Soren schools have also become the target for the far right in Japan, with students wearing the distinctive uniforms in the past verbally and physically abused outside school grounds. Some graduates of North Korea's schools in Japan are equally against their taxes being used to educate a new generation about the heroic achievements of 'The Great Leader' and 'The Dear Leader'. 'They said they were teaching us about our ethnicity, but it was more like brainwashing in how to be a good North Korean citizen,' says Young Ki-koh, head of the Tokyo office of the dissident online newspaper the Daily NK and a graduate of the Osaka Korean High School. 'In English-language books in other countries, they might teach the phrase 'Spring has come', but at my school we had to learn by heart 'Kim Jong-il is a great leader',' he says. History books focused on the Kim family's military victories and how they had forged the revolution while each pupil had to stand up and give a speech at after-school 'discussion meetings' about how wonderful Kim Jong-il is. A long-time critic of the North Korean regime, Young says he has nothing against the ordinary people of North Korea but wants them to have the freedoms, rights and standards of living that are available to their fellow countrymen in the South. For his pains, Pyongyang demanded that Japan extradite Young to North Korea to face trial. 'The Japanese government should not be helping these schools because they are not teaching the children about language, history or culture,' he says. 'They are only trying to instil in them an adoration of the Kim dynasty.' There are also suggestions that teachers at North Korean schools in Japan are assisting the regime to carry out criminal activities, he says. So Kay-Se, the former headmaster of Shimonoseki Korean School, is wanted by the Japanese police for allegedly helping to smuggle 250kg of amphetamines into Japan, while Kim Kil-uk, the former head of Osaka Korean School, is on Interpol's wanted list in connection with the abduction of Tadaaki Hara, 43, from Miyazaki prefecture in June 1980. Hara is just one of dozens of Japanese that North Korea abducted to instruct its agents to infiltrate society here. Pyongyang claims he died in 1986 but has provided no evidence. Both So and Kim are believed to have escaped to North Korea. 'How can we be contemplating funding this sort of organisation, right here in Japan?' asks Ken Kato, director of Human Rights in Asia. 'It's as if the British government provided financial support to radical Islamist schools in Britain that preached hatred of all things British. 'Why should we support a regime that hates Japan and all things Japanese?' The North Korean media has weighed into the argument, with the Rodong Sinmun daily stating in a recent 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 March expressing '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 scheme. A Ministry of Education official in Tokyo said a decision on whether the tuition aid programme should be extended to North Korean schools should be made before the end of the year, although it is leaning towards including Chosen Soren schools in the scheme.