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The Diet is deliberating on a bill to make public high school tuition free and provide ¥120,000 yearly to those attending private schools or certified educational institutions. But Mr. Hiroshi Nakai, minister in charge of the North Korean abduction issue, aired the view in February that pro-North Korean high schools — mostly attended by Korean residents — should be excluded from the program because Japan is imposing economic sanctions on North Korea for its past abduction of Japanese nationals and its nuclear weapons programs.

Chosen gakko (literally Korean schools) are financially supported by North Korea and the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon). But diplomatic issues should not be confused with education issues. Excluding Chosen high schools from the program will run counter to the Fundamental Law of Education’s principle of providing equal opportunities in education irrespective of race, beliefs or social status.

About 2,000 students study at 10 Chosen high schools in Japan, whose status is defined under the School Education Law. Some local governments subsidize Chosen high schools. Most classes are taught in Korean, and portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his father Kim Il Sung are displayed. Except for Korean history, other subjects are taught in accordance with the education ministry’s prescribed courses of study.

Forty-six percent of Chosen high school students have “North Korean” (Chosen) nationality; 51 percent are South Korean. Some are Japanese and Chinese nationals. Students take part in sports events for Japanese high schools. Most national universities and many private universities allow Chosen high school graduates to take their entrance exams.

Chosen high school students are members of Japanese society. Excluding them from the program will only promote discrimination and create antagonism in Japanese society. It could invite suspicions from the international community about Japan’s commitment to mutual understanding between different ethnic groups.

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