The “Chosun” are ethnic Koreans who moved to Japan during the latter’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula, for reasons varying from better economic opportunities to just plain survival. It became their descendants’ legacy, and after the Korean independence, some families either stayed in Japan or went home to South Korea. The Chosun remained in Japan and have never become full Japanese citizens, nor in their minds, gain the acceptance of the country’s citizens and the government. The Chosun schools – who teach Korean-Japanese children – are now feeling the brunt of this gap.
The Chosun schools in Japan are in serious danger of extinction because of the government’s stance regarding North Korea’s nuclear aggressiveness. In Yokohama, Chosun schools have been providing education to Korean-Japanese children for nearly 70 years since 1946. Last February, after North Korea’s third nuclear test, the Kanagawa prefectural government and Yokohama city government decided to cut off the subsidies they had been paying for more than three decades since 1982. Kanagawa’s five Chosun schools lost 63.74 million yen (US$649,000) in subsidies from the prefecture and 2.54 million yen (US$26,000) from the city. The Yokohama city government amended its guidelines for private international school subsidies last October, effectively denying them to any schools that were deemed “an inappropriate market in light of the international situation.” The Chosun schools are bearing the brunt of political concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program and missile launches.
Without the subsidies that are so vital to the schools’ operations, teachers have gone without pay for two to three months. “The teachers can’t even afford their health insurance premiums right now,” said Pi Jin, chairman of the Kanagawa Chosun Academy. In light of this, Japanese locals have been up in arms about the prefecture’s treatment of the schools and have volunteered to raise funds for a “rainbow bridge” to help them out. Last April, 28,000 signatures were collected and presented to the city. Twenty thousand more names have been added in campaigns since then. “Koreans in Japan pay the same taxes that Japanese people do,” says the fund raising pamphlet distributed by the volunteers. “Yet they are treated entirely different in support for their children‘s education.” Pi agree with the campaign, saying, “The complexities of issues between countries should be resolved between those countries through negotiation. Children shouldn’t be treated as pawns.”
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