Tokyo: Japan's new government decided not to extend a tuition waiver program to pro-Pyongyang high schools within the country, in response to the lack of
progress on the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, education minister Hakubun Shimomura said.
The measure reflects the tough stance taken toward North Korea by Japan's new government launched Wednesday under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is known for his hawkish views on security and foreign policy issues, especially when it comes to Pyongyang's abductions of Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s.
"The schools have close ties with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, and given the lack of progress on the abduction issue, (the public) will not understand if we provide the tuition waver to such schools," Shimomura told a news conference.
The association, known as Chongryon, acts as a de facto government mission for North Korea in Japan in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The ministry plans to revise an ordinance in about a month to reflect the decision. The tuition waiver program was introduced in April 2010 by the previous Democratic Party of Japan-led government and applies to all the students including those at foreign schools, where the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology recognises as having curricula similar to Japanese senior high schools.
Since the introduction, the ministry's expert panel had been screening pro-Pyongyang schools based on application criteria such as the number of teachers and facilities.
But government officials were particularly cautious over deliberations regarding these schools, as the content of their curricula could not be examined.
There are 10 such schools in Japan with about 1,800 students in total. No tangible progress has been seen so far on the abduction issue since the repatriation of five Japanese abductees from North Korea in 2002.
Pyongyang has described the abduction issue as having been fully resolved. North Korea has also said it will re-investigate the cases but has yet to make good on its promise.