Imagine attending school with portraits of the late North Korean dictator, Kim Il Sung, and current leader Kim Jong Il hanging on the classroom walls. This is a reality at schools operated by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

Known as Chongryon in Korean and "Chosen Soren" in Japanese, the association runs 60 Korean-language schools throughout Japan, ranging from kindergartens through high school, and even a university — Korea University — in Tokyo. Chongryon members represent roughly 25 percent of the 610,000 people known as "Zainichi" Koreans — those born and raised in Japan who have not taken Japanese citizenship. Sixty-five percent of Zainichi Koreans are members of the pro-South Korea Mindan organization.

Although Mindan has a larger membership, their school system is not as extensive or developed as Chongryon's. Chongryon supports North Korea politically, and until recently the curriculum offered political ideology and history classes from a North Korean perspective, implying uncritical praise for the North's leaders and the communist system.