[Editorial] Putting an end to the disgraceful Joseon school controversy

Posted on : 2010-03-12 11:19 KST Modified on : 2010-03-12 11:19 KST

It appears the controversy that began when certain figures in Japan pushed to exclude Joseon schools from the government’s plan to make high school education free from 2010, which begins next semester, has entered its final stage. A final decision has yet to be reached, but there are media reports that Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio and Education Minister Kawabata Tatsuo have agreed to include the Jeseon schools in the program.

If the reports are true, this is fortunate. Yet the attitude revealed by Japanese politicians over the course of the controversy has been very disappointing. This is because it clearly exposed not only their insufficient understanding of education, which is a universal right, but also their discriminatory attitudes toward Koreans living in Japan.

The policy to make high school education tuition free, a key pledge of the Hatoyama government based on the value of guaranteeing equal rights to study for all children, calls for subsidies to be provided to high school students regardless of nationality, so that they pay tuition comparable with Japanese public schools. As foreign schools similar to the Joseon, which are classified as “schools in the miscellaneous category,” have been included in the tuition-waiver plan, it was also understood that the Joseon schools would be included in the plan.

A problem arose, however, when Nakai Hiroshi, National Public Safety Commission chairman and minister of state for the abduction Issue, said that Joseon schools were North Korean schools and should not be included in the tuition waver plan while the North Korean abduction issue remained unresolved. Prime Minister Hatoyama also stated his opinion, saying he did not know what was being taught at the Joseon schools.

Discrimination in ensuring the right to an education based on a diplomatic relationship is a violation of the UN’s agreements banning discrimination. Moreover, the Joseon schools are a legacy of Japan’s colonial rule over Korea. The Joseon schools were founded by Koreans who had no choice but to remain in Japan after Korea’s liberation to provide an independent Korean education. The South Korean government, which ignored the issue of education for Koreans in Japan, is also not blameless for the fact these schools have a relationship with North Korea. Recently, due to North Korea’s deteriorating economic situation, Pyongyang’s aid to these schools is nothing more than symbolic. The curriculum for the schools is also in line with the Japanese education ministry’s guidelines. The refusal to provide aid while decrying them as North Korean schools, however, is in line with Japan’s avoidance of historical responsibility.

As a result of the debate over the Joseon schools, we have grown suspicious over whether the Hatoyama government’s more progressive claims regarding issues of historical redress are really true. If Prime Minister Hatoyama’s dream of a Northeast Asian community based on fraternity is to reverberate, the Japanese government must subsidize tuition for the Joseon students and abandon all forms of discrimination against Korean residents in Japan, a true legacy of Japan’s colonial rule.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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