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Portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his father, Kim Il Sung, that are displayed in classrooms at schools for pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan will soon be removed, sources familiar with the matter said Saturday.

Political education at the schools will also be curtailed, the sources said.

The measures are part of a drastic reform effort launched by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), a pro-Pyongyang Korean residents’ association, at the request of the North Korean leader, they said.

Pyongyang ordered Chongryon to carry out reforms in 1999, but it faced opposition from some members. North Korea issued a stronger order in mid-August, according to the sources.

The reform measures also include dissolving the political organization within Chongryon to streamline the command structure and promoting visits by pro-Pyongyang Korean residents to South Korea, they said.

The portraits will be removed from elementary and middle schools, but they will not be removed from high schools or universities because students can opt to attend those schools.

The number of students with Japanese nationality at the schools is rising in tandem with a decline in the number of those with North Korean nationality.

Although parents of Korean children in Japan want their children to learn Korean, the pro-Pyongyang political atmosphere has become a major hurdle for enrollment, the sources said.

Chongryon also plans to send more than 1,000 pro-Pyongyang Koreans to the Asian Games in Pusan, South Korea, from late September to mid-October as part of efforts to increase their ties with the country, they said.

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