The new administration said Friday the tuition waiver program covering pro-Pyongyang high schools in the country will not be extended because of the lack of progress in resolving the past abductions of Japanese nationals to North Korea, education minister Hakubun Shimomura said.
The measure reflects the tough stance taken toward North Korea by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a known foreign policy hawk, especially when it comes to Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s.
“The schools have close ties with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), and given the lack of progress on the abduction issue, (the public) will not understand if we provide the tuition waver to such schools,” Shimomura told reporters.
Chongryon acts as the de facto government mission for North Korea in Japan in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The ministry plans to revise an ordinance in about a month to reflect the decision.
The tuition waiver program was introduced in April 2010 by the previous government, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, and applies to all students, including those at foreign schools, if the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology recognizes their curricula as being similar to Japanese high schools.
Since the introduction, the ministry’s expert panel had been screening pro-Pyongyang schools based on application criteria that include the number of teachers and facilities.
But government officials were particularly cautious over deliberations regarding these schools, as the content of their curricula could not be examined.
There are 10 such schools in Japan with about 1,800 students in total.
No tangible progress has been seen on the abduction issue since the repatriation of five Japanese abductees from North Korea in 2002. Pyongyang has described the abduction issue as having been fully resolved. North Korea has also said it will reinvestigate the cases but has yet to make good on its promise.