Korean group protests grades for patriotism

Kyodo

A Korean citizens’ group here is protesting a report card used at local municipal elementary schools that includes an evaluation of students’ Japanese patriotism, group members said Wednesday.

Lee Bak Sung, a lawyer and director of Woori Sahwe, which means “our society” in Korean, said such an evaluation could lead to discrimination against students with foreign citizenship.

The group’s leader, Chong Gi Man, submitted a written demand Wednesday to Fukuoka City Hall that the item be eliminated from report cards.

The group has also called on the Fukuoka Prefecture bar association for help and has demanded that the municipal board of education eliminate the evaluation, according to Lee.

“Children using their ethnic (Korean) names will be subject to discrimination and prejudice. It sends a message to Korean residents of Japan and other foreigners that they should engage in studies as a Japanese,” Lee said.

There are some 500,000 Koreans with permanent residency status in Japan, including many who were forced to come to Japan to work as laborers during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, as well as their descendants.

The Fukuoka City Board of Education said the section was among four items deemed worthy of evaluation in the field of social sciences when a committee of principals compiled a draft report card for use in fiscal 2002, which began in April.

Among the 147 municipal elementary schools in Fukuoka, 69 use the report card for sixth-grade students, board officials said.

The item allows teachers to evaluate whether children “cherish Japan’s history and traditions and have feelings of love toward the country, as well as try to identify themselves as Japanese in this world which aims for peace.”

Mamoru Shibata, an official of the Fukuoka board of education, said the issue should be considered flexibly in the future.

Meanwhile, an official of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry suggested that the policy for handling foreign students is left to each school.

“The nation’s education will focus on educating its citizens, but we must also naturally respect the identities of Korean residents of Japan and other (foreigners),” the official said. “Each school needs to decide how to care for foreign children.”