• Kyodo News

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The education ministry will include pro-Pyongyang high schools in the government’s tuition waiver program, sources said Wednesday.

The move comes amid increasing views among a ministry panel of experts considering the eligibility issue that the schools, which have close ties with Chongryon, or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, have curricula similar to those of other high schools, the sources said.

But opposition remains strong even among lawmakers in the ruling bloc — including Hiroshi Nakai, state minister in charge of abduction issues — with some calling for their exclusion in light of the unresolved abductions of Japanese by North Korean agents.

Under a law that took effect in April, students in public high schools are exempt from tuition, while those in private and other schools equivalent to high schools receive ¥118,800 to ¥237,600 annually per student in accordance with their household income.

Foreign schools, including international schools, are eligible if they are recognized as equivalent to Japanese high schools through checks with their home countries, or if their curricula are accredited by an international organization.

But pro-Pyongyang schools, because Japan doesn’t have diplomatic ties with North Korea, have been excluded because they, unlike other foreign schools, can’t be technically confirmed as being equivalent to Japanese schools.

Education minister Tatsuo Kawabata has said he will reach a conclusion by the end of August. He said Wednesday the expert panel will discuss the matter “in a quiet environment” and its conclusion will be publicized.

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