National / Crime & Legal

Japanese high court upholds denial of tuition waivers for students of pro-Pyongyang school

Kyodo

A high court upheld a lower court’s ruling Tuesday in favor of the government’s decision to exclude a pro-Pyongyang school in Tokyo from a tuition waiver program that covers most of the nation’s high schools.

The Tokyo High Court said the school is suspected of having ties with the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean residents in Japan, known as Chongryon, as suggested in news reports.

The education minister’s decision to exclude the school from the program did not overstep the scope of his discretion, the court said.

Under the tuition waiver plan, launched in 2010, public school students are exempted from paying tuition fees, while private school students receive financial assistance from the government.

The status of pro-Pyongyang schools was undetermined until February 2013, when the government decided to exclude them from the program, citing the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea among other issues.

“There is no guarantee that the (government) subsidies would be used for educational purposes at the school,” presiding Judge Jun Abe said in Tuesday’s ruling.

The 61 plaintiffs, who are graduates of the school, are seeking ¥6.1 million ($54,064) from the government in compensation. They said they will take the case to the Supreme Court.

In September 2017 the Tokyo District Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that it was illegal for the government to exclude them from the waiver scheme, saying exclusion was not unreasonable.

“I am filled with bitterness. I will not give up until we have a ruling in our favor,” a 23-year-old female plaintiff said at a news conference.

In all, five such suits have been filed around the country, most of them either being rejected or are still in the appeal process.

An exception was a ruling by the Osaka District Court in favor of the plaintiffs in July 2017 on the grounds that exclusion was based on diplomatic and political considerations. However, it was overturned two months later on appeal.

A suit at the Kokura branch of the Fukuoka District Court will be ruled on next March.

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