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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Exclusion of Korean Schools from the Tuition Subsidy Program is Racial Discrimination

Here are Mainichi news and editorial over the possible exclusion of the Korean schools from the new high school tuition subsidy program in Japan. I agree that the Japanese government's diplomatic problem with North Korea and the abduction issue have nothing to do with this
discrimination against the children with North or South Korean passports living in Japan. I worked in the field of international education exchange for a long time, and living in Canada, I have seen so many Japanese children benefiting from the subsidized education in North
America. People in Japan have little idea how their citizens benefited from the education system of US and Canada that treated them just the way they treated their own citizens.

I know US and Canada weren't perfect. During the Pacific War, those governments deprived the people of Japanese ancestry of human rights and sent them to concentration camps. The two governments, thanks to the persistent citizens' movements for redress, have provided apology and symbolic compensation, and the world in general has been learning quickly that such racial
discrimination is no more tolerable. I think we overseas Japanese have a responsibility to raise awareness of what is going on in Japan and help the government and people of Japan realise that such exclusion of children with Korean ancestry in the tuition subsidy program is unacceptable.

March 13, 2010

  • U.N. rights watchdog to warn Japan on exclusion of N. Korean schools from free tuition
    GENEVA -- A U.N. human rights watchdog is set to warn the Japanese government against excluding North Korean schools in Japan from measures to make high schools tuition free, calling it racial discrimination.

    The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is expected to issue a recommendation for improvement to Japan as early as Monday after deeming its exclusion of Korean schools from the tuition measures a violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

    Although the recommendation is not legally binding, CERD is mandated with monitoring signatory countries' human rights records and interpreting the convention. Under the provisions of the convention, signatories must report on the improvement of their human rights situation for biennial reviews.

March 11, 2010

  • Excluding North Korean schools from new free tuition structure irrational
    A battle over whether to exclude North Korean schools in Japan from the high school tuition-free measures currently being debated in the Diet has erupted within the government.

    Opponents of the bill to include North Korean schools maintain that it is irrational to support them while Japan imposes economic sanctions on North Korea, which has not taken serious action on issues of international consequence, including the abduction of Japanese nationals, nuclear development program and ballistic missile tests.

    Certainly, it is necessary to take a tough stance against abduction and other issues, but support for children's education is another story. It is not tolerable to link the two issues and prey on education as if excluding North Korean schools is a type of diplomatic sanction against the North. Such a policy would be in conflict with the significance of the tuition-free measures touted by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led administration.

    Korean schools are not credited like other high schools under the School Education Law but are classified as "schools in the miscellaneous category." At Korean schools, classes are taught in Korean and feature ethnic education including Korean history, but other subjects are based on the government-set educational guidelines.

    Currently, there are 10 North Korean high schools across Japan, where some 2,000 students of both North Korean and South Korean nationality are enrolled. Most of the universities in Japan accept graduates of Korean high schools as eligible to sit for entrance exams.

    These students, born and raised in Japan, have been and will be members of Japanese society. The free tuition measures, as with the child allowance program, are based on the principle that society as a whole should bring up children. To this effect, it is irrational to divvy up the benefits of educational support for diplomatic reasons beyond children's control.

    If the government insists on excluding Korean schools because of Pyongyang's attitude, we could be regarded by the international community as taking excessive measures. There would be no benefit in giving children at those schools a sense of alienation. There are those in the opposition Liberal Democratic Party who believe education should not fall prey to diplomatic issues. Such opinions are not incompatible with Tokyo pressing Pyongyang for a quick settlement of the abduction issue.

    The government plans to determine schools to be covered by the tuition-free measures under a ministerial order after the bill clears the Diet, with the criteria centering on whether the schools are giving education comparable to the standard high school curriculum. Education Minister Tatsuo Kawabata was right in saying, "Diplomatic concerns and other issues would not constitute the criteria for judgment."

    The controversy all started in late February. After it came to light that Hiroshi Nakai, minister of state for the abduction issue, was requesting the exclusion of North Korean schools from the tuition-free measures, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama made remarks suggesting he was leaning in that direction.

    Hatoyama later modified his remarks, saying it was yet to be decided, betraying the government's lack of consensus on the issue. It is inconceivable that the government had yet to reach an agreement when the Cabinet approved the bill in late January.

    It is expected that the latest controversy would raise public awareness of the actual condition of North Korean and other international schools in Japan and would lead to boosting exchange between such schools and local communities.

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