Osaka High Court tosses lower court ruling, denies Korean school’s right to government subsidies

Kyodo

A high court Thursday scrapped a lower court ruling and decided a Korean school in Osaka is not eligible for the government’s school tuition subsidies.

The Osaka Korean High School, which teaches in Korean and provides a Korean-style education, had earlier sought to annul the government’s decision to exclude it from the tuition-free high school education program.

In handing down the ruling, the Osaka High Court’s Presiding Judge Yuzuru Takahashi said the government’s decision was legitimate, citing the school’s links to the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan including financial assistance and the school’s choice of textbooks, whose contents admire North Korea’s past and present leaders.

“It is suspected (the school) is under ‘unjust control,'” Takahashi said, questioning the school’s educational neutrality.

Regarding the decision in 2012 by then-education minister Hakubun Shimomura to exclude the school from the tuition-free program, the high court determined there was no abuse of discretion, rejecting the school’s claim that the decision was illegitimate because it was made based on diplomatic and political motives.

It was the first high court ruling on a series of such lawsuits filed by Korean schools in Japan.

The Osaka District Court ruled in July last year it was unlawful for the government to exclude Osaka Korean High School from the subsidy program based on political issues, such as North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals.

While the district court had admitted the relationship between the school and the pro-Pyongyang association, it said it was not unnatural for such an organization in the country to aid a school that providing a culturally-specific education.

Three district courts, in Tokyo, Nagoya and Hiroshima, have already ruled against the Korean schools.

The government introduced the tuition-free program in April 2010 as one of the key policies of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan.

Under the program, public high school students were exempted from tuition fees, while private high school students received financial aid to make tuition effectively free.