• Kyodo News

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The education ministry is close to allowing pro-Pyongyang high schools for Korean residents in Japan to be covered by the government’s tuition waiver program, according to sources.

A ministry panel of experts tasked with determining eligibility has assessed that the Korean schools, which have close ties with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), offer educational curricula similar to Japanese high schools, they said.

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

According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, about 1,800 students currently attend a total of 10 high schools with ties to Chongryon. The ministry’s move would pave the way for the schools to receive between ¥120,000 and ¥240,000 per student backdated to April this year.

However, there is strong opposition among lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to the inclusion of the schools in the program, largely due to the past abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.

The ministry plans to urge the pro-Pyongyang high schools to submit documents, including lists of teachers and employees as well as balance sheets, every three years to verify that funds under the program are being spent properly, the sources said, adding that irregularities could lead to schools being stripped of their eligibility.

Foreign schools, such as international schools, are eligible for the tuition waiver program if they are recognized as equivalent to Japanese high schools after checks with their respective home countries, or if their curricula are accredited by international organizations.

But pro-Pyongyang schools have been excluded as, unlike other foreign schools, it could not be confirmed that they were equivalent to Japanese schools, partly because Japan and North Korea do not maintain diplomatic ties.

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