Last month, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city government of Saitama, located just outside of Tokyo, gave 180,000 masks to pre-schools and elder care facilities to protect students, residents, and workers from the virus. All pre-schools received masks with only one exception: Korean schools.
After a successful organizing campaign, the Saitama government was forced reverse its decision and gave masks to Korean pre-schools. Koreans in Japan are forced to constantly struggle against discriminatory acts like this, which are either initiated by or implicitly endorsed by the state.
The situation has been exacerbated under the rule of right-wing Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Historically, all pre-schools have been tuition free in Japan. In May 2019, the Shinzo government passed legislation making pre-school and daycare free. When it went into effect in October, however, Korean schools were excluded.
In 2010, the Japanese government’s tuition waiver program made all schools for foreign nationals living in Japan either free or highly subsidized. Again, the only exclusion is for Korean schools. There are around 800,000 Koreans living in Japan that are classified as “foreign nationals.”
Although they pay taxes in Japan and have lived in the country for decades, many have citizenship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea).
While all Koreans face discrimination in Japan, those with DPRK citizenship are especially oppressed. Protesters regularly gather outside of the schools, shouting racist slogans and even assaulting students and throwing rocks and other objects at the school buildings. The Korean community has to constantly struggle to have the police intervene, and it is rare that they arrest the assailants.
The Japanese government claims that it excludes Korean schools because it can’t verify the curriculum. However, the government doesn’t verify the curriculum of other schools for foreign nationals, like American schools. Colonial racism is the real reason that the government excludes the schools from programs such as these.
Most Koreans first came to the country as a result of Japan’s brutal colonization of Korea in the early 20th century. Others came as forced laborers during World War II. Just as Japan tried to wipe out Korean culture in Korea, they continue to attempt to destroy it in Japan. By depriving Korean schools of funding, they hope to eliminate the preservation and growth of Korean language, dance, music, history, and politics.
Koreans in Japan are asking for international support in their struggle to end the government’s discrimination against Korean schools. Please sign and share this petition, which will go to Japan’s Ministry of Education in June and then to the United Nations General Assembly in September.
The 21st Century