Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Chosen-seki

It seems rather unlikely, although it's been mentioned before here in passing, but there is a North Korean community in Japan. The organization representing them calls itself Chongryon, as opposed to the Mindan, which represents the South-aligned. There was a time, once upon, closer to the time of the Korean War, when it was much harder to discern whether North or South Korea was the superior nation, and both were represented in Japan when it came time to pick a side. Both were something of a backwater; neither's leadership was exactly stellar. Japan recognized South Korea as the only legitimate government on the peninsula in 1965, and over the years, the pressure on the North-aligned residents- the Chosen-seki- has gradually kicked up, with South Korea's high court issuing a ruling barring them entry to South Korea in 2010.

But a community still exists. It has schools and everything, prominently displaying Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il''s pictures in classrooms, though students, of which there about 9,000 in the country, have taken to wearing Japanese outfits instead of Korean ones so as not to get harassed on the street, and the pictures have been removed from elementary and middle schools. These are now the targets. As Eric Talmadge of the AP reports, Japan is currently considering legislation aimed at making a high school education affordable for everyone through public subsidies, but Chosen-seki schools- and only Chosen-seki schools- are specifically excluded from the legislation. They've already been excluded from legislation waiving tuition fees. The Chongryon has long drawn funding directly from North Korea, but with that country increasingly worried about itself, the cashflow to the Japanese outposts have dried up and schools have slowly closed, and this kind of legislation can really do damage.

This actually isn't to say that all of the Chosen-seki agree with North Korean policy. Many don't, but feel an obligation to follow in the footsteps of their parents who did. Otherwise, they would have formally become Japanese citizens. (Japan, like almost all nations outside of the Americas, does not confer citizenship at birth; Koreans in Japan lost theirs in 1952 when Japan abandoned a territorial claim to the Korean peninsula.)

These kids today.

No comments: