I’m writing to express my concern about the free preschool education program that took effect Oct. 1. I’m a third-generation Korean in Japan and the mother of a 7-year-old son who goes to a Korean school.
In 2010, the Japanese government eliminated Korean high schools from a tuition waiver program. This time, the government targeted Korean kindergartens. Korean children and parents are deeply hurt and disappointed by this decision.
The new program makes preschool education free for “all children” between the ages of 3 and 5 and is being funded by revenue from the consumption tax hike to 10 percent. All children are eligible for this program, Korean children too. But Korean kindergartens are excluded even though Korean residents pay taxes and the schools offer the same level of education as Japanese preschools.
Korean children have long suffered from discrimination. When I was in elementary school, Korean students weren’t eligible for student discounts on train passes, and when I was in high school, we weren’t eligible for the entrance exams for national universities and some private universities, and we had to attend a distance learning school or take the university entrance qualification exam for the equivalent of a high school diploma.
The government’s elimination of a specific ethnic group from the new program is unfair, and it will lead to discrimination and prejudice among children, which in turn will harm relations between Japan and Korea. Even if there are political disputes, children should be treated equally.
We just want to learn our language, culture and history. We hope to maintain our own identity. I think we need to create a society that understands differences between languages, cultures and countries, and respect each other no matter the race, religion or gender.
I’m extremely worried about the future of children if this goes on, so we will keep fighting for all children. This is not only an issue about Korean children. This is an issue about everyone.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.