Since the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910, a lot of Koreans came to Japan for economical reasons or came by force for hard labor. Now, the number of Korean residents in Japan (in general they are called Zainichi) is expected to reach 60 million. They live in Japanese society as members of society while adopting Japanese culture. However, even though most are second or third-generation Korean Japanese, born and raised in Japan, discrimination is still a factor they have to live with. There are many difficulties that Korean Japanese face now. However, I especially want to focus on the ethnic schools for Japanese Koreans.
After Korea was divided, two ethnic groups, the pro-North Korean residents’ league (Chongryon) and the Korean residents union, were established. Now, there are about 140 ethnic schools of Chongryon and all of 4 of Korean schools of the Korean residents union. The reason that the ethnic school is prevalent is related to the history of Korean Japanese. Because North Korea tried to send an aid fund and award a scholarship every year to the ethnic school, the front of the classrooms were covered with the portrait of the North Korean leader in gratitude for what North Korea had done. However, recently a wind of change is blowing through the ethnic school. In 2002, the portraits were removed from the classrooms. Now they do not need to follow the policy of North Korea through the liberalization of Chongryon. In addition, 60 percent of students have Korean nationality. Although the ethnic school received financial aid in the beginning, those who all the while established and made the school better were Korean Japanese regardless of nationality. In other words, the school is a very valuable asset to them, not to North Korea. This also has great significance in supporting Korean Japanese spiritually and helping to preserve the identity of Korean Japanese society. However, despite the importance of the school, lately student enrollment has decreased rapidly.
Many Korean Japanese do not want their children to go to the ethnic school in today’s fast-paced social conditions because of a thoroughly pro-North Korean education. Also, it is a problem that students cannot have their academic courses accredited in Japan. They usually experience discrimination during their entrance examinations and in finding a job. As well as these, some of students have been faced with ordeals such as having their uniforms torn by rabid right-wing fanatics ever since North Korea recognized kidnapping Japanese during late 1970s and early 1980s. For these reasons, Korean Japanese are worried that their children might not adapt to Japanese society well if they send their children to the ethnic school. Also, they do not want to send their children to the Korean school because the Korean school has been recognized strongly as the school for sojourning employee’s children. Therefore, a lot of them decide to send their children to an ordinary Japanese school. This has lead to the decrease in student enrollment. Now there are lots of problems trying to manage the ethnic school as it faces a rapid decrease in students. If this situation continues, these schools will have to close in the end. Thus, in order for these schools to be maintained, they must change into schools that Korean Japanese parents can trust and want to send their children to.
The ethnic school is important to the link that holds Korean Japanese and in keeping their identity. Also it plays an important role in forming the future of Korean Japanese society. However, because of ideology education and worries that they may not able to adjust to society, parents are reluctant to send their children to the ethnic school. The only way for the school to survive is for that the school to bring Korean Japanese together, regardless of nationality, and to be accepted as a regular school in Japanese society. Many Korean Japanese still feel that they do not belong to Japanese society, and this can make them feel frustrated about their lives. I wish that the schools would help and support Korean Japanese, not only in receiving recognition from Japanese society but also in preserving their Korean Japanese identities.