Pro-North students sue over tuition aid

Kyodo

Students and graduates of a pro-Pyongyang school in the city of Kitakyushu have filed a damages suit seeking ¥7.37 million from the government for allegedly discriminating against Korean schools by excluding them from a tuition waiver program.

In the suit filed Thursday with the Kokura branch of the Fukuoka District Court, the plaintiffs — 67 current and former students of the Kyushu Korean junior and senior high school — said their right to equality was denied.

“Of all the schools for foreigners that have applied to the program, only Korean schools were excluded,” the plaintiffs said. “It is a discrimination against the ethnic Korean community in Japan.”

According to the lawsuit, students at pro-Pyongyang schools were eligible for financial aid under the tuition waiver program when the education ministry introduced it in April 2010.

But after North Korean forces shelled the South Korean island of Yeongpyeong in November of the same year, the school screening process was halted and the ministry blocked pro-Pyongyang schools from the program in February this year.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which returned to power last year, ended the aid for North Korean children because of the lack of progress in the abductee issue, according to news reports.

“Why does our right to study have to be denied by political problems? Please listen to the voice of our hearts,” one of the students said in a statement.

According to defense lawyers, similar lawsuits are pending at district courts in Nagoya, Osaka and Hiroshima.