Media Mix, Aug. 21, 2021

Chosen schoolroom

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about a recent Supreme Court decision to deny Chosen high schools the right to receive central government tuition subsidies that all other non-public high schools in Japan receive. At one point in the column, there is a brief history of Chosen schools, which are associated with North Korea. As pointed out, there are also schools in Japan for ethnic Korean residents that are affiliated with South Korea, but they are fewer in number than Chosen schools. Of course, before the end of World War II, the Korean peninsula was a colony of Japan and thus Koreans were considered Japanese subjects. With the surrender of Japan in 1945, these individuals lost their Japanese nationality and, for the most part, Japan, not to mention the American occupying forces, expected them to return to their “home country.” Many Japan-resident Koreans had been brought over, some against their will, to work in Japan for the war effort, but there were also many who had been living in Japan for much longer. In any case, it wasn’t just a matter of suddenly packing up everything and moving back to Korea, which was in turmoil as the northern part of the peninsula fell under the sway of the communists in the chaos that resulted from Japan’s removal. For various reasons, the school system created by Japan-resident Koreans right after the war to teach the Korean language (banned under colonial rule) leaned toward the communist north, which is why the Americans eventually banned the schools at the urging of former Japanese imperialists who still had some influence.

Later, after the Korean War effectively divided the peninsula, resident Koreans also split between those who favored the south and those who favored the north, and some residents did “repatriate” to their respective “homelands.” Those who aligned with South Korea were able to gain South Korean nationality, even if they didn’t move to South Korea, but those who aligned with North Korea and who didn’t move to North Korea have become basically stateless, and for a time North Korea and its representative in Japan, Chongryon, financially supported Chosen schools. Presently, it isn’t clear how much support Chosen schools receive from Chongryon, but reliable reports indicate it isn’t much, if, in fact, they receive any at all. Over the years, an increasing number of resident Koreans have opted to become naturalized Japanese, but many do not in the belief they would lose their Korean essence if they did. Nevertheless, almost all have lived their entire lives in Japan and could not imagine living anywhere else, including South or North Korea. 

Here is a much more detailed explanation of the postwar situation of Japan-resident Koreans, as well as that of Okinawans.

Also, there is an earlier Media Mix column from 2013 that covers this same subject more contemporaneously.

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