Assn of Korean Human Rights RYOM Munsong’s speech text to UN Rep Bustamante, March 23


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Hi Blog.  What follows is a speech by Mr RYOM Munsong, read and presented to UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants, Dr. Jorge Bustamante, just before I did on March 23 (my speech here).  I have offered as a space for Japan’s presenting NGOs to release their information to the general reading public.  Read on.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo.


Association of Korean Human Rights in Japan




報告者:廉文成(RYOM Munsong)

Good afternoon, Dr. Bustamante, thank you very much for sparing us time to introduce human rights situation of Koreans in Japan. Today, I would like to talk about xenophobic movements against Korean school at grass-roots level and current Japanese government’s decision to exclude Korean school from new high school tuition-free measures.

Let me show you video picture.

This is the picture of assault against Korean primary school in Kyoto by one of the grass-roots right-wing organizations named “Citizen’s Group against Special Rights for Zainichi (foreigners in Japan)”, shortened to “Zaitokukai.” This group opposed what it calls ‘special rights’ for Koreans in Japan.

As you can watch, they shouted abusive words just in front of primary school. At that time, primary school students were studying in the school building. They might be frightened by their dirty words and violent behavior. They terrified Korean school children based on xenophobia. It is the violation of the rights of children to study without any physical and mental persecution.

Such kinds of assault should not be taken place. Furthermore, Japanese authorities should keep such human rights violations under strict control. What is more serious is that not a single member of this group was arrested by the Japanese police, which means that such assaults are not illegal in Japan under the pretext of freedom of speech or something. Xenophobia and human rights violations against foreigners can be observed at the grass-roots level.

By the way, let me briefly introduce the reason why Koreans are living in Japan. We, Koreans in Japan, are the offspring of those who came to Japan during the colonial period. Some were forcibly conscripted or taken as manual labour, others came to Japan to find the way to live. According to the statistics of the then Ministry of Home Affairs, about 30,000 Koreans lived in Japan in 1920, the number had increased by 300,000 in 1930. In 1945, the population of Koreans in Japan had reached around 2,400,000. On the whole, the first generation of Koreans in Japan originated from Japanese colonial rule.

Having such history, Koreans in Japan have established many Korean schools. Now, there are about 70 Korean schools; including one university and 10 high schools. The forerunner of Korean school was “training school for Korean language”, established just after the liberation all over Japan. The main purpose of this school was to teach Korean children their own language, culture and history so that their children could live when they went back to their country. They just wanted to get back Korean identities as Korean education was prohibited during colonial period. Although many Koreans went back to their fatherland after liberation, 600,000 to 800,000 Koreans remained in Japan. As time goes by, “training school for Korean language” developed into Korean school of today. Now, the main purpose of Korean school is to educate Korean students to live in Japan as Koreans with Korean identities.

However, Korean schools are still legally categorized as miscellaneous school like driving school. Despite the fact that they are socially recognized as schools with the same level of educational contents as average Japanese ones, they receive quite fewer amounts of educational assistance than that of Japanese private ones. The biggest factor should be absence of state subsidy from the government.

Furthermore, despite the fact that preferential treatments in the taxation system on donation to schools (reduction and exemption of tax for donors) are adopted not only to Japanese schools but also to international schools of western countries, this qualification is not granted to Korean schools. In addition, parents of Korean schools remain being excluded from the object in many scholarship systems.

On this issue, the UN Human Rights Committee issued several recommendations. I will introduce the latest recommendation of 2008. When the UN Human Rights Committee considered the fifth periodic report on International covenant on civil and political rights submitted by Japan (CCPR/C/JPN/5), the members of the committee expressed their concerns on the situation of Korean school students saying that “The Committee is concerned that state subsidies for schools that teach in the Korean language are significantly lower than those for ordinary schools, making them heavily dependent on private donations which are not exempted or deductible from taxes, unlike donations to private Japanese schools or international schools”. And the committee made recommendation saying that Japan “should ensure the adequate funding of Korean language schools, by increasing state subsidies and applying the same fiscal benefits to donors of Korean schools as to donors of other private schools, and recognize diplomas from Korean schools as direct university entrance qualifications.” (CCPR/C/JPN/CO/5)

To my regret, despite several efforts for the improvement of status of Korean school in Japan, they still suffer from economic difficulty.

Last year, when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came into power, it declared their tuition-free subsidy program of high schools. It was one of DPJ’s central campaign pledges during last August’s general election. The Diet is deliberating on a bill to make public high school tuition free and provide ¥120,000 yearly to those attending private schools or certified educational institutions. Schools for foreign students are considered eligible for the subsidy if they are deemed “the equivalent of Japanese high schools”. At the beginning, Korean schools were also included as beneficiary of this program. Last month, however, Hiroshi Nakai, minister in charge of the abduction issue, asked education minister to bar Korea schools from the planned tuition-free subsidy program saying that “If the government decided to designate Korean schools as beneficiaries of the subsidy program in addition to others, it would be tantamount to providing effective economic aid to North Korea, although Japan has applied its own sanctions to that country (in addition to U.N. sanctions)”. (The Japan Times, February 22, 2010)[1]

At last, the government of Japan decided to exclude Korean schools from high school tuition-free measures, and left the ultimate decision up to an assessment body to be established before long. This assessment body seems to examine whether the curriculum of Korean schools are comparable to the standard high school curriculum despite the fact that most of universities in Japan have received Korean school graduates. Furthermore, all of Korean schools are classified as the miscellaneous school under School Education Act, and other foreign schools of miscellaneous category are included in this program. Only Korean schools are excluded because of diplomatic situation between Tokyo and Pyongyang. Abduction issues or nuclear weapons have nothing to do with Korean school students in Japan. We cannot help regarding this decision as racial discrimination toward Korean people.

Given such a situation, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about discriminatory policy towards Korean school students. In a report, issued on 16th of this month, the CERD committee expressed concern on “the continued incidence of explicit and crude statements and actions directed at groups including children attending Korean schools.” Moreover, the committee expressed concern not only on “the differential treatment of schools for foreigners and descendants of Korean and Chinese residing in Japan, with regard to public assistance, subsidies and tax exemptions” but also “the approach of some politicians suggesting the exclusion of North Korean schools from current proposals for legislative change in Japan to make high school education tuition free of charge in public and private high schools, technical colleges and various institutions with comparable high school curricula.” The panel recommended the government of Japan to “ensure that there is no discrimination in the provision of educational opportunities”.

As a country which has ratified several human rights conventions, the government of Japan should respect and ensure the rights of minorities. Korean schools which were established to restore ethnicity which was deprived during the colonial period and to succeed it to the next generation should be the subject for positive support.

In my opinion, government’s decision not to grant any substitute to Korean school is made based not only on diplomatic relation between two countries but also on their discriminatory idea towards Korea.

Finally, let me introduce media reports on this issue. Some Japanese newspapers also oppose government’s decision to exclude Korean school from this program. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper (on February 24 and March 8 ) and The Japan Times (on March 14) carried their editorials to oppose government’s decision. These are the copy of them. I think their opinions are not pro-Pyongyang (and still contain bias), but quite reasonable and common-sense views from the perspective of universal value of human rights.

Thank you very much for your attention.



12 comments on “Assn of Korean Human Rights RYOM Munsong’s speech text to UN Rep Bustamante, March 23

  • “The biggest factor should be absence of state subsidy from the government.”
    As an economist this line makes me cringe, the state is big enough in Japan as it is. Debito San, my current partner whom I may end up with is Japanese. Is home schooling legal in Japan? I could not bear the torture of state sponsored social conditioning that they call public education. ([tangent deleted] From my point of view although Japan’s system is entirely infuriating, although not as infuriating as China’s, the country which I currently reside. [tangent deleted] But anyways, I have no intention of having children in Japan if home schooling is not an option, and I had a bit of trouble finding concrete information on the home schooling situation there my Japanese is only intermediate level and I have trouble wording things correctly in searches. I presume it’s illegal, is it?

    — Children with Japanese citizenship (only) are required by law to attend accredited schools in Japan until age fifteen, if I know correctly. The bureaucrats will drop by and demand you do. However, again, I don’t think there is any real enforcement mechanism aside from frowns and shitsukoidom. There are people in Japan who home school, but very few.

  • after reading this report, it seems that this is a clear case of racial discrimination against korean schools in japan. This man that filed this report should also sue the GOJ for a clear cut policy of racial discrimination against korean schools.

  • I just want to know, is he talking about all Korean schools or just North Korean schools?
    (Is there a difference?)
    I don’t follow this issue much, but he only seems to use the term “North Korean” once in the whole speech, and that was in a quote. Reading the speech, one would assume the GOJ is discriminating against ALL Korean schools? Is this true? Or maybe is it that North Koreans can only refer to themselves as “Korean” without the North/South distinction? Anyone?

    — AFAIK North Korean schools (there is a difference) are being singled out for exemption.

  • @Luke,

    Homeschooling in Japan is not illegal – lots of parents in Japan do it actually. You need to get a form (sorry the exact name of said form escapes me at this moment), fill it out, bring it to your local BOE. They may or may not send someone to your home to check and see if the curriculum is `acceptable` etc, but it IS being done in a much wider section of the poplulation than most ppl think. Check out `Education in Japan` for a whole host of info on homeschooling in Japan….apologies to Debito for going WAY off topic!!!

    — Not at all. I know so little about this and appreciate the correction. Please send us a link to the referential materials.

  • @Jim,

    The key point is that if the discrimination is against only North Korean schools, then the discrimination is based on geo-politics, not racism.
    Which is why I suspect the speaker only said “Korean schools” which I will have to take as deliberately misleading. By saying “Korean schools” rather than “North Korean schools”, except in one CYA quote near the end, he is including South Korean-style schools, which apparently are NOT subject to this discrimination in funding. Thus, it is a lie of omission (or false inclusion). No different from Japanese xenophobes claiming dangerous gaijin “crime” rates are high, by including immigration/visa overstays as “crimes” but not mentioning that fact, to give the impression there’s an explosion of gaijin violence and theft. Deceptive. Indicative.

    The unsuspecting listener (Bustamante) could likely come away thinking Japan’s policy re: these schools is based on some kind of racism against all Koreans, and is a policy against all Koreans, when it is in reality (I beleive) about politics and the tanlgeed mess that is the NK problem.
    Now, you could look at it as the North Korean school students and parents are innocent victims of discrimination of the GOJ, which may be true, but it is NOT racist discrimination, rather political discrimination, and I believe not a part of our cause, tangential as it may be.
    There are plenty of cases of political discrimination, like granting visa waivers to citizens of certain nations, taxing people based on their income, etc. which you may even support!

    You could also say that these parents still have the option of putting kids in South Korean schools if the want their kids to learn Korean language and traditional culture. The kids are still the victims, while this exposes the hypocrisy. If the North Korean schools are discrimanted against, they are united Koreans and can claim racism. But when money is being doled out, they want a separate share as North Koreans.

    I really don’t think getting mixed in the NK issue is going to help the fight against racial discrimination. Nor do I think deceptive tactics help either. Stick to the arguing against the actually racist policies against Koreans and all NJ and not get used in geo-political fights when someone plays the race card. The NK issue is above our pay grade, nothing we do or say can affect it, but it can affect us, and only badly.

    If taking a side in this issue is helpful to the wider struggle in some way, I’m ready to listen.

    — I added this speech to because I wanted people who are taking these issues to the UN to make their case as best they could. If you don’t agree, go head and take issue, as you did.

  • Here is the link to Education in Japan – it is also a webgroup that you may join (more like a mailing list). They have a lot of great archives and resources though! Also, DH (darling husband) and I are considering international school for our daughter, and in their information packet they include a letter in English and in Japanese to your local Board of Education stating that you (for lack of a better term) opt out of the regular school system.

    Again, it depends on your local BOE and the school that you (should) be enrolled in. There are some kids who are enrolled (registered) only at the local school but recieve all instruction at home. Depends on the BOE, the school principal, etc. Also, this only applies if your child has Japanese citizenship.

    Hope this helps!

  • Sorry if this is getting off-topic, but the speaker only referred to ‘Korean’ schools because the DPRK, and presumably organisations and schools affiliated with it, do not refer to the DPRK as ‘North Korea’, but as ‘Korea’. He does refer to the opinions expressed in the newspaper editorials as not being ‘pro-Pyongyang’, from which one would assume he is talking about schools affiliated with Pyongyang. Thus I don’t believe it was a deliberate attempt to omit information, rather an adherence to the usage of terms officially recognised by the DPRK and affiliated organisations. Whether this is apparent to the listener or not will depend on how read-up on the subject the listener is, and one would think that a representative of the UN would take enough interest in the situation in Japan to be aware of the different affiliations within Japan’s Korean community.

  • Let me clear I am very aware, and thankful, that debito put this speech up and that it does not indicate his support/non-support for the speech.
    It is very interesting to see what other speakers have said. Even better would be to learn what the GOJ reps told Bustamante in their (overtime) session. Is that available? Or can we just assume they are making the standard laughable claims that “Japan is doing everything possible” to counter racist discrimination, or is the DPJ adopting new standards?

    It is going slightly off-topic, but I do see the chance that the speech was toeing the party line in only referring to North Korean as “Korean” and the professor had no choice (which in itself is alarming), and perhaps he was even sneaking by the party regs by at least slipping in one “North Korea” in a quote from someone else (thus it is not his “violation” of whatever rules there may be.) Either way it’s all speculation, based on what we know of NK.

  • @Level3
    you can color coat it anyway you like, but disrimination is still discrimination anyway you slice it. regardless of the fact if its against north korean schools, or south korean schools. the only people that are victimized and suffering from this stupid policy are the helpless students.why are they being denied equal treatment? there parents pay taxes like anyone else

  • @Jim

    Discrimination is not a 4-letter-word.
    Everybody discriminates. Your tax rate is based on discrimination. The apple you pick at the supermarket is based on your discrimination. The partner you choose to marry is based on discrimination (and you may one day end up wishing you had been more discriminating). The lack of need for a visa when you travel to certain countries is based on discrimination. Your acceptance to your school, getting your job, etc. All based on cases of discrimination for you and against the other guy.
    Are you not guilty of discrimination? Do you not profit from discrimination?

    I think you want to say “racial dsicrimination”? We can agree that is wrong. But this is not a case of racial discrimination, it is much more complicated, as has been explained. Just saying, “But it IS!” is not a counter argument.

    [snipe deleted]

    — Let’s get a bit more sophisticated about how we argue about “discrimination”.

  • Hello…

    I’ve read the speech and it was very interesting at the least to say. I’ve also read the comments and it seems like a lot of people are questioning whether the subsidy exclusion only applies to North Korean schools or South Korean schools.

    I would like to mention that Korea was ‘one’ during the Japanese colonial periods of its history. There was no North Korea, nor South Korea. The Koreans that got taken as labour (many of them forcefully as prostitutes) were not south korean nor north korean. If I have to insist, majority, if not all, of the Korean Schools in Japan teach freedom of speech (albeit accurate history text books can be forbid by Japanese government), which means that current Korean Schools in Japan should categorize under South Korean schools if one must allocate it to a category.

  • after reading this report, it seems that this is a clear case of racial discrimination against korean schools in japan. This man that filed this report should also sue the GOJ for a clear cut policy of racial discrimination against korean schools.


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