Tuesday, July 13, 2010

7.11 Kyoto/Shiga Assembly: Demanding Free Tuition for Korean Schools!

Eclipse Rising members, Haruki and Kyung Hee attended the 7.11 Kyoto/Shiga Assembly to demand the equal educational rights for Korean schools on Sunday, July 11. Initially, Korean schools and other foreign/international schools were excluded from the new law that made high school education tuition-free. In response to the protest from those schools as well as a broader Japanese society, the Ministry revised the law and included 31 foreign/international schools. However, 10 Korean high schools are still excluded because of its relation with the DPRK (aka North Korea). True, the schools are affiliated with the pro-DPRK organization, Chungryun. Even though they meet every criterion and qualify for the law, the Ministry problematized their affiliation with Chungryun.
At the assembly, the human-rights attorney, Egashira who just came back from Geneva gave a report on her experience lobbying and attending the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights meeting. The OHCHR showed concerns about the unequal treatment of Chinese, Korean and other non-Japanese school by the Japanese government . Specifically it demanded the Japanese government that it should increase financial support for those schools and give rights to take university entrance exams to the graduates of those schools based on the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education. Other speakers included Korean school students, their parents, Korean school teachers, Zainichi Korean elders, Japanese poets, graduate students, community activists and Brazilian school principal from Shiga.
What struck me was that most speakers repeated and emphasized that Korean schools are no different from Japanese schools, and Korean students are as "good" as Japanese students. They say, hence, Korean schools should not be excluded from the new tuition-free program. But I think education should not be a privilege. Education should be a right. This means that all kinds of people -both "bad" and "good" (whatever that implies) should equally be given an opportunity to enjoy the right to learn. Both "bad" and "good" schools should equally be given resources to provide education to their students. This very way to divide "bad" and "good", and only "good" can be a recipient of the privilege is exactly how the colonizers used the divide & conquer tactics against us, the colonized. The tactics we should not use against ourselves.

The colonized are often inclined to want to be "good" so that they can be tolerated, included and approved by the colonizers. To be "honorary Japanese" has become a dream for the many colonized for so many years in so many different ways. This false consciousness is nurtured through violence in different forms, one of which is, I think schooling. As a Korean, Japanese school system was a process of learning self-hate. On the contrary, Korean high school students who spoke against the exclusion in the video seemed emotionally more stable because they know their language and history and why they were born and raised in Japan. None of those knowledge was available when I was a student in Japan.

Being exposed to pro-DPRK ideology at school while enjoying the luxury in Japan that is extremely anti-DPRK, Korean school students are naturally trained to have relational views on things. However, it seemed that their critical comments on Japanese racism seemed as if they were echoing what their teachers and parents said and it made me scared. Indeed, any sort of schooling is a system of regulating one's thinking whether pro-Japan or pro-DPRK. If they are engaged in a true critical thinking, how could they only condemn Japanese racism and not mention sexism that exists powerfully in Korean schools/school system at all, for example? I truly believe that the major reason why the number of Korean students who attend Korean schools has declined has always been because of the discriminatory treatment by the Japanese government, but I cannot stop thinking that Chongryun might have used the Japanese as their enemy and oppressor a bit too conveniently... to not confront their own issues and blame everything on the Japanese. It is about time for us to really think what it means to be Korean as Zainichi, rather than honorable overseas nationals. What kind of knowledge and skills do we need? What kind of education do we want to provide? What kind of Zainichi do we want to become?

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