Last summer, there was a change of government here in Japan, from the Liberal Democratic Party (自由民主党) to the Democratic Party (民主党). From the leftist perspective, it is difficult to see any substantial difference between the two, aside from the extra word in the name of the former, but the new administration does employ some new rhetoric. A keyword here is fraternity (the gender insensitivity is something that hasn't changed).
The fraternal spirit is decorated with some modest socialist policies. One of them is to make high school education "free"(高校無償化): if things go as planned, there will be no tuition for all public schools, starting April; all private schools, international schools included, will receive government subsidies so that they will be more affordable. I just used "all" twice, because that's what the government and the ruling parties had been telling us until very recently. Then just weeks ago, Hiroshi Nakai (中井洽), a cabinet member, showed up out of nowhere and opened his mouth. He wants to exclude Korean schools (朝鮮学校) as part of economic sanctions against North Korea. Thank God we have Yukio Hatoyama (鳩山由紀夫), someone who believes in fraternity, in power. One would expect him not to listen to such racist nonsense and go ahead with the plan, the plan for all. As it turns out, the prime minister is also inclined to make an exception to "all."
Let me give you a paragraph of a Far East modern history lesson. In the nineteenth century, Japan started aggression against Korea and incorporated it in the early twentieth century. Under the colonial rule, a lot of Koreans were taken to Japan as forced laborers. Others had to migrate because of the economic mess created by the invaders. In 1945, the Empire of Japan was defeated, which was a liberation for Korean people. Then the cold (and hot) war. As a result of all this, there are hundreds of thousands of permanent residents of the Korean origin in Japan. Since the defeat of the Empire failed to amount to a significant break with the past, Japan still is a racist society, hostile to the non-Japanese. On the other hand, as early as just after the liberation, some Koreans decided to build their own schools, teaching their own children their own culture and language. From the very beginning, their efforts were met with the government suppression: arrests were made, a young person killed, the schools closed down. And yet they didn't give up. Korean schools still continue to exist in this racist nation, a testament to their struggles.
The exclusion of Korean schools from this new policy should be situated in this context. In his policy address earlier this year, Hatoyama said he wants to protect life and argued "we must guarantee all children ways of life in which everyone can drink healthy water and enjoy basic education free from discrimination and prejudice with their human rights protected." Well said. In light of the recent events, however, Myungsoo Kim (金明秀) suggests a revision to his statement: Hatoyama should say "I want to protect life, except that of Koreans."
A lot of permanent residents of the Korean origin with some Japanese and other people are enraged. They are collecting signatures, handing out leaflets, holding meetings, and expressing their opinions on the street, calling against discrimination. I hope the international community will take interest in this issue and start to participate in the calls against exclusion of Korean schools.
A revised and expanded version of this entry has been published at Dissident Voice.