There are about 700,000 ethnic Koreans living in Japan. Most of them are descendants of Korean forced laborers who were brought to Japan before World War II. Except for a few old timers, they were all born in Japan and speak Japanese as their first language. Most are classified "special permanent residents” or “resident aliens.”

Koreans make up around 85 percent of Japan’s resident alien population. Many live in and around Osaka and Kobe. There are about 160,000 Koreans in Osaka Prefecture, the largest number of any prefecture. Although Osaka has a Korea town, Koreans tend live scattered around in different places. Many South Korean newcomers arrived after the Asians financial crisis in 1997.

Koreans in Japan are fairly equally divided between those loyal to South Korea and those loyal to North Korea. About 350,000 belong to or are sympathetic to South Korea-supported Mindan (Korean Resident Association in Japan) and 300,000 belong to or are sympathetic to North Korea-supported Chongryon (General Federation of Koreans in Japan).

Koreans are relatively easy to identify by their one syllable, one Chinese-character names. Many Koreans create Japanese names by adding one or more Chinese character to their real family name to make it sound Japanese. At one time less than 20 percent of Korean high school students are registered under Korean names. Many try to pass themselves off as Japanese to get good jobs or get into good schools. If their secret is discovered they are sometimes fired or expelled. These days more are using their Korean names and not suffering any discrimination.

The census in 2005 counted 590,000 Koreans. There are believed to be more than this. Koreans married to Japanese, Koreans that have Japanese blood and Koreans that have Japanese names are sometimes not counted.

Good Websites and Sources: e-book; Zainichi (Koreans in Japan ) by John Lie escholarship.org/uc ; Han World www.han.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Mindan mindan.org ; Mintohren international.ucla.edu ; 2010 Economist Article economist.com ; Book: North Koreans in Japan amazon.com/North-Koreans-Japan-Language-Transitions ; 2010 Los Angeles Times Article on North Korean Schools in Japan articles.latimes.com ; Memoirs of a Korean in Japan asiaarts.ucla.edu ; Links in this Website: SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; NORTH KOREA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan

History of Koreans in Japan

An estimated 6,000 Koreans and a smaller number of Chinese were lynched by rampaging vigilant mobs in search of scape goats. several days after the great Tokyo earthquake in 1923, which killed 97,000 people in the Tokyo and Yokohama area. They were blamed for looting and setting fires and even causing the earthquake.

The slaughter began after the Interior Ministry cabled local branches that ethnic Koreans were committing acts of arson and ordered them rounded up. Rumors began spreading that Koreans were looting and poisoning the water supply. Some Japanese even accused them of causing the earthquake. Japanese mobs hunted down Koreans and beat them to death. Even in places that were not damaged by the quake, Koreans were viscously attacked.

Between 1910 and 1945, the Japanese brought 2.1 million Korean forced laborers to Japan. Many were put to work in coal mines and factories, freeing Japanese to work in the military. After the war about 600,000 Koreans decided to stay in Japan, of which about 40 percent were loyal to Pyongyang and 60 percent were loyal to Seoul. Those that felt loyal to Pyongyang did so out of feelings of patriotism. They were still discriminated against by the Japanese and admired Kim Il Sung because of stories about him fighting the Japanese.

When the Allied occupation ended in 1952, Koreans were not given Japanese citizenship. The Korean War in the early 1950s encouraged many Koreans to settle in Japan even though they lacked citizenship. After the Korean War, ethnic Korean were given the choice of becoming South Korean or North Korean citizens.

North Korea moved quickly to set up separate schools which attracted both left-leaning Koreans and Koreans unhappy about life in Japan. In 1959, North Korea launched an aggressive program to get Koreans in Japan to move to North Korea. South Korea encouraged their citizens to assimilate and was oppose to the program to get Koreans in Japan to move to North Korea.

When Japan and South Korea normalized relation in 1965, Korean residents were encouraged to take South Korean citizenship. More than half did, Supporters of North Korea became effectively stateless.

Since the 1960s it has become easier for ethnic Koreans to become Japanese citizens and tens of thousands have done so.

These days Japanese love kim chi. Since 1998 it was been the most widely consumed pickled product in Japan, far outselling Japanese asazuke pickles. Kim chi flavored ramen is popular. Niku restaurants — of which they are thousands in Japan — grew from Korean barbecues, Korean restaurants that serve pulgogi and other Korean-style meat dishes.

Animosity Between Japanese and Koreans

Japan and South Korea are closely linked historically and culturally but they also have a long history of animosity and distrust. Very few Japanese are willing to admit this but, the first Buddhist monastery in Japan was founded by Korean monks, Korean scholars tutored Japan's most celebrated princes, Korean immigrants introduced Chinese medicine to Japan and by 815 one third of all Japanese noblemen descended from Koreans. [Source: Pico Iyer, Smithsonian magazine]

Many Japanese regard the Koreans as rude, pushy, crude, inferior and lacking in sophistication and control over their emotions. They also object to the strong smells of some Korean dishes. In the old days there were several racist names for Koreans and songs with lyrics like “Koreans sound like pigs.”

Koreans think of the Japanese as deceitful, arrogant, untrustworthy and conceited. "To be anti-Japanese is part of being Korean," wrote Ian Buruma, author of “Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan”. "It goes with the territory so to speak. And nothing makes a Korean feel more Korean that to continue being angry about old Japanese atrocities. The fact that some Japanese continue to deny them offers them an incentive to keep the flame of resentment burning."

In a poll in the late 1990s by a Japanese newspaper, 83 percent of the Koreans asked said the considered Japan "untrustworthy” and half said they wouldn't work for a Japanese company. When asked why, many said "I dislike Japan and the Japanese.” A poll in 2000 found that 90 percent of South Koreans felt that Japan had yet to atone for past misdeeds.

Koreans have not forgotten what happened during the Japanese occupation when Korean men were enslaved at hard labor camps, Korean women were forced into prostitution and efforts were made to exterminate Korean culture. Korea is one of the few countries in the world where you see virtually no Japanese cars on the road. At the 1994 Asian Games, a South Korean team official said that his country's main goal was to "get more medals than Japan."

Resentment among South Korea still burns over what happened in the colonial and war periods. One South Korean man told the New York Times that his father worked in stable where Japanese soldiers used to eat. He said his father said, “The Japanese would say Koreans work hard only when they are hungry. So when they finished eating, they overturned the table and my father would have to pick up the scraps.”

Discrimination Against Koreans in Japan

Koreans who don't have Japanese citizenship lack social rights guaranteed to Japanese and are not allowed to vote. Until fairly recently Koreans were required to carry ID cards, with their thumb prints, with them at all times. Many claim they discriminated against at school and in the workplace.

In the old days many Koreans shied away from eating kimchi in public because of the way Japanese sometimes reacted. One Korean-Japanese man told the Yomiuri Shimbun that he stopped having it in his bento lunch before World War II because one day an older Japanese boy told him, “You Korean, you reek of garlic.”

Korean-Japanese also complain they discriminated against in South Korea, where they are known as “banjoppari”, a pun on “geta” (the Japanese wooden sandals) and pig legs. The prejudice stems partly from the fact that the lowest classes of Koreans went to Japan work. Despite having South Korean passports, Korean-Japanese can not vote in South Korea.

Many ethnic Koreans try to hide their identity. According to a poll in 2001, only 13.5 percent of the South Korean citizens said the they use their Koreans names. About 50 percent said they use Japanese names and 35.5 said they use both a Japanese name and a Korean name, depending on the situation.

One Korean student wrote, "my classmates often beat me up after school because of my Korean name and exclude me from our usual after-school baseball game."

Koreans have traditionally been one of the groups that Japanese disliked the most. Japanese nationalists are quick to dismiss the suggestion their ancestors came from the Korean peninsula even though there is quite a bit of historical evidence to support this. A manga entitled “Hating the Korean Wave” sold 360,000 copies.

Elderly and handicapped Koreans have been denied pensions and other benefits that Japanese are entitled to because of their nationality. In 1994, a second generation Korean woman sued the Tokyo government claiming she was failed to be promotion because she was denied the right to take a promotion exam to become a manager because of her Korean nationality. The trial went on for 10 years, Ultimately she was not promoted because the Supreme Curt overturned her victory in a lower court which said the Constitution guarantees the right to choose one’s occupation.

Koreans Denied Japanese Citizenship

Until recently it was almost impossible for non-Japanese to obtain a naturalized citizenship in Japan. Even ethnic Koreans, whose families have lived in Japan for four generations, are not Japanese citizens.

The Koreans have been officially designated as "long-term aliens" and "special permanent residents" not Japanese citizens even though they are physically indistinguishable from Japanese, speak Japanese fluently but no Korean, and were born in Japan.

There were no specific laws that denied them of citizenship just bureaucratic hurdles that were difficult to overcome. One Korean man who applied for citizenship in the 1980s at the local Bureau of the Justice Ministry was told he had to wait for over several years because the ministry had a police record that showed he had illegally parked a few times in the previous year.

Koreans Become Japanese Citizens

Until the early 1990s, only around 5,000 Koreans a years became Japanese citizens. In the late 1990s, restrictions were eased, making it somewhat easier for Koreans to become citizens, and around 10,000 Koreans a year became citizens.

As of 2000, 240,000 Koreans has acquired Japanese citizenship. Those that obtained citizenship were given it because they showed they possessed “good behavior.” Anyone with offense on the their police records was denied citizenship. Those that became Japanese were required to “Japanize” their names.

According to a poll in 2001, 25 percent of the South Korean citizens asked said the wanted to become citizens. Of those who said they did 52 percent said they wanted to for the sake of their work and 46 percent said it was necessary for the work and daily lives. Many young Koreans, who have few cultural links to their homeland, consider Japanese citizenship as a paperwork formality that will make life easier.

Not all of the Koreans eligible for Japanese citizenship have chosen to become citizens. One Korean man told the Japan Times, "My pride in having Korean ancestry, name and nationality overwhelmed the urge to live as a Japanese."

Korean Life in Japan

Many Korean live in Korean communities in Osaka, Tokyo and other cities. The districts were they live have many Korean restaurants and shops where they can buy Korean food and Korean-language magazines and newspapers, some of them published by Koreans in Japan. In some apartment buildings there are Korean temples.

Koreans have traditionally been denied good jobs and have been forced to work in factories, construction sites, bars, restaurants, and small family-owned businesses.

Ethnic Koreans dominate the yakuza, perhaps because for many years it was the few forms of employment open to them, and own the majority of the country's pachinko parlors. Three quarters of the members of the Yamaguchi Gumi, Japan's largess underworld organization, are ethnic Koreans or burakumin.

Since 1990 about 80 percent of the Korean-Japanese who married got married to Japanese. According to a 2000 Mindan survey, only 7.5 percent of third-generation Koreans were cable of daily conversation in Korean while 56.5 percent of first-generation Koreans were. On South Koreans, one Korean-Japanese told the Daily Yomiuri, “I cannot assimilate with them, although I can understand and respect their feelings.

Korean Schools in Japan

Korean children often attend separate Korean schools but more and more Korean-Japanese parents have been sending their kids to Japanese schools. About 20 percent of Korea schoolchildren attend Korean schools.

Of these, 20,000 Korean students attend North Koreans schools and 2,000 Korean students attend 4 South Korean schools. Koreans and part Koreans can attend but Japanese can not. Those who graduate and pass an exam can attend North Korea-supported Chosen University. The Japanese Ministry of Education does not recognize these schools. Most pro-Seoul Korean children attend Japanese schools.

Japanese Koreans like to send their children to these schools because they teach students about Korean culture and atrocities committed by Japanese against Koreans,

Students at Korean schools were not allowed to play in nationally organized sporting competitions until 1994. Soccer teams were only allowed to compete until 1996. Korean high school baseball teams are still not allowed to compete in the National Athletic Meet, which is attended by Emperor and Empress. There are also frequent reports of attacks on Korean schoolgirls who are identified by their traditional clothes.

In the early 2000s there was an effort to change the policy that required students of Korean schools to take a high school equivalency test before they were allowed to take university examinations.

Anti-Korean Protests in Japan

Reporting from Kyoto, Martin Fackler wrote in the New York Times, “The demonstrators appeared one day in December 2009, just as children at an elementary school for ethnic Koreans were cleaning up for lunch. The group of about a dozen Japanese men gathered in front of the school gate, using bullhorns to call the students cockroaches and Korean spies. An armband worn by a member of the Japanese group Zaitokukai. The red characters say “The Volunteer Corps Against Lawless Koreans”; the black characters say “Expel barbarians.” Inside, the panicked students and teachers huddled in their classrooms, singing loudly to drown out the insults, as parents and eventually police officers blocked the protesters’ entry.[Source: Martin Fackler, New York Times, August 28, 2010]

“The December episode was the first in a series of demonstrations at the Kyoto No. 1 Korean Elementary School that shocked conflict-averse Japan, where even political protesters on the radical fringes are expected to avoid embroiling regular citizens, much less children. Responding to public outrage, the police arrested four of the protesters this month on charges of damaging the school’s reputation.”

“Teachers and parents at the school said the protests had left them and their children fearful. “If Japan doesn’t do something to stop this hate language,” said Park Chung-ha, 43, who heads the school’s mothers association, “where will it lead to next?”

North Koreans in Japan

About 300,000 of the Koreans in Japan are loyal to North Korea. They are the largest group of North Koreans outside of North Korea; are still largely viewed as outsiders; and have unusual access to North Korea. They travel relatively frequently to North Korea, exchange letters and even make occasional phone to North Koreans, which are rare for people outside North Korea to do. About 5,000 Korean residents of Japan visit North Korea every year.

Many of the Korean residents of Japan that are loyal to Pyongyang send their children to the pro-North-Korean schools and continue on to the pro-Pyongyang Korean University of Japan. See Below.

Many pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan are turning against North Korea, disillusioned by the policies of Kim Jong Il and the strong anti-North-Korean sentiments in Japan.

Several North Koreans that defected to South Korea have been arrested on vice charges in Japan. One woman who was arrested had fled from North Korea to South Korea in 2004 and came to Japan in 2006 after experiencing money problems in South Korea and opened an adult salon in Japan. About nine others were arrested under simialr circumstances. One told the Yomiuri Shimbun , “We defected from North Korea because our lives there were difficult, but our lives didn’t impove in South Korea. In Japan were earned a lot, thanks to the strong yen. The woman who ran the salon made profits of $400,000 in about 18 months.

Ferry Between Japan and North Korea

North Korea's only link to a non-Communist country is via the Mangyoungbong-92, a 400-foot, 300-passenger ferry boat that travels between Wonsan, North Korea and Niigata, Japan three times a month.

The vessel is mainly set-up for Korean residents of Japan traveling to North Korea, who are supposed to bring with them high-tech items such as computers or large amounts of foreign currency which is badly needed in North Korea to purchase foreign goods. The glistening white ship was built by Korean residents of Japan who are loyal to Pyongyang.

Most of the passengers are elderly ethnic Koreans visiting their families or graves of their ancestors or students on field trips organized by schools in Japan affiliated with North Korea.

Japanese Koreans in North Korea

More than 93,000 ethnic Koreans were lured to North Korea by the Homecoming Project between 1959 and 1984. Those recruited were often told that North Korea was “heaven on Earth” with free education and health benefits. They were also told if they didn’t like it in North Korea they could return. Some Koreans in Japan figured since no one were coming back to Japan then things must be pretty good in North Korea. When they arrived they found a dismally poor and oppressed state that would not allow them to leave.

In 1960, 49,036 Japanese residents (Koreans and Japanese) were relocated to North Korea under various reparation programs; 22,801 were repatriated in 1961.

When the North Korean reparation program in 1959 Koreans living in Japan were suffering from severe discrimination. One woman who participated in the program told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “In reaction to the discrimination against them in Japan , they placed their hope in North Korea and the promise of socialism.”

Japanese Wives in North Korea

Records show that 1,831 Japanese wives went with their husband to North Korea. Most left Japan between 1959 and 1963. They were married to Korean men and were part of the exodus of Japanese and Japanese Koreans to North Korea in the 1950s and 1960s. Once in North Korea they were not allowed to leave. Even their correspondences was tightly controlled. As of 2010 it was estimated that less than 100 were still alive. Only and handful managed to escape from North Korea.

One Japanese wife told the Daily Yomiuri, “I boarded a ship...with my mind full of expectations. As soon as I arrived at a North Korean port, however, I realized I had made the wrong decision. What I saw was completely different than what I heard about. The country was no worker’s paradise — in fact we were forced to live in appalling conditions.”

In 1997, around 600 of Japanese wives in North Korea were still alive. That year some were allowed to return to Japan for short visits as part of the "wives for food" exchange in which North Korea was given some badly need food during a famine there. The women said they had been treated well and had nothing bad to say about North Korea. The North Korean have managed to extort millions of dollars from the families of Japanese wives, telling relatives that thewell being of the women was dependant on a steady flow of money.

A group in Japan called the Society to Help Returnees to North Korea has tried to sue Chosen Soren for allegedly conspiring to send thousands of Japanese Koreans to North Korea. In November 2009, an Osaka court dismissed the case because the statue of limitations was up on the matter.

Hardships of Japanese Wives in North Korea

Japanese wives were persecuted as “reactionary elements from a capitalist country.” Many ended up in concentration camps where they treated like garbage and often died prematurely from dysentery and pneumonia, the North Korea defector Kan Chol Hwan told the Yomiuri Shimbun.

One Japanese wife, who managed to escape from North Korea and wrote a book called “ Japanese Wife, Shizilu “ told the Yomiuri Shimbun that her husband died when she was young and after that she endured harsh discrimination. Everyday, corn porridge was the only thing she ate. When she first went to North Korea she said she was promised she could return in three years to see her family. That turned out to be a lie.

Hiroko Saito, a Japanese wife that managed to defect, told the Yomiuri Shimbun the Japanese wives were forbidden from speaking Japanese and had to call each other by their Korean names.

Some were imprisoned. The Japanese wife mentioned above said, “North Korea is a rigid hierarchal society. Most Japanese there are the lowest of the low and suffered abominable treatment.” One woman who met some Japanese wives in North Korea said one “wore rags and her face was almost black from pellagra.” Another “was skinny, had lost all her teeth from malnutrition...I head some people calling them Japanese beggars.”

Ko Jong-mi, who was brought to North Korea by her mother, told the Los Angeles Times that she was bullied in school, where her Japanese -made clothes were ripped and she was called “panjoppari”, a slur meaning half-Japanese. “Homecoming members were the lowest rung on the ladder. We were like untouchables.” But there were others who suffered more than her. Her stepbrother was placed in a mental institution where “dirty people with long hair” were “kept in in cages like a zoo” after he complained about his treatment. He died in the institution while still a young man.


Chosensoren (Chosen Soren) acts as an unofficial North Korea embassy in Japan. It issues passports, handles government affairs and runs North Korean schools in Japan.

Chosensoren (organization for North Korea residents) has been called a Japanese branch of North Korea's Workers Party. Song Soon-jong, an influential North Korean resident in Japan told Newsweek, "Our family members and relatives are hostages in North Korea. Our opinions and activities are relayed to Pyongyang through Chosensoren immediately and could cause them to suffer harsh punishment. Many of us are also afraid of being ostracized from the North Korean community in Japan, which is very tightknit."

In November 2001, an official with Chosensoren was arrested by Japanese police for embezzlement.

Chongryon and Midan

Chongryon (General Association of Korean Residents in Japan) is a secretive organization made of North Koreans in Japan loyal to Pyongyang. It is a powerful organization. About 40 percent of the Koreans in Japan have sworn an allegiance to it, and thus North Korea. Mindan (Korean Resident Association in Japan), the other major organization for Korean residents of Japan, supports South Korea.

Chongryon was founded in 1955 to protec the rights of Korean residents n Japan. Chongryon has its headquarters in a large building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo and has branches in every prefecture and runs peripheral organization related to commerce, industry, youth, women , students and other things.

Chongryon claims to have 200,000 members but the real number is believed to be between 40,000 and 70,000. Members of Chongnyon are regarded as citizens of North Korea. They have no right to free national health insurance, child benefits, welfare, pensions or free education in Japan but are required to pay the same taxes that Japanese pay. Most have been strong supporters of the North Korean government until fairly recently.

Chongryon and Mindan have traditionally waged a fierce battle over their respective ideas about socialism and liberalism. Mindan was strongly opposed to Chongryon’s involvement in the aggressive program to get Koreans in Japan to move to North Korea in 1959.

In 2007, the government initiated procedures to seize the building and the land of Chongryon headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo in the wake of the collapse of a financial institution under Chongryon’s umbrella that was brought in part by new taxes imposed on it in the early 2000s. The move shocked pro-Pyongyang residents of Japan.

Chongryon Activities

Chongryon has built 140 schools and a university (Korea University) for the Korean community, where 20,000 young people study the standard subjects — and the wisdom of Kim Il Sung." After graduating many of the pro-Pyongyang Koreans get jobs in pro-Pyongyang businesses and organizations.

Chongryon runs a newspaper called the Shesen Ship. It’s employees are believed to have been involved in espionage and other illegal activities involving North Korea and may have had a hand in the abduction of Japanese citizens. Other people who worked for Chongryon organizations are believed to have been involved in the abduction of Japanese citizens abroad.

Police have been ordered to watch but not disturb Chongryon. Japanese officials worry that if they crack down on the organization it might lead to protests and terrorist acts. The fiercely anti-Communist police force in Kyoto once used 1,000 policemen to raid 27 separate offices of North Korean groups and after seizing thousands of documents they worst thing they could come up was an accusation against Chongryon torganization for expanding a school without the right permit.

North Korean Money from Japan

Ethnic Koreans are believed to be funneling between $500 million to $850 million to North Korea every year. This is probably the largest source of foreign currency for North Korea. Much of the money comes from ethnic Koreans in the pachinko business.

No one knows how much money ends up in North Korea. Much of it is stashed in suitcases and the whole operation is very secretive. Since the end of the bubble economy, money from Japanese has been drying up. Some people estimate only $100 million makes it to North Korea.

There are 18 banks in Japan that are authorized to deal with North Korea. In 1993, Japan recorded a half billion dollars worth of trade with North Korea. Among the items imported by Japan are snow crab which are brought in by North Korean boats that often run out of gas on their way to Japan.

Money is often extorted from Japanese North Koreans by Pyongyang by threatening to harm or make life difficult for their relatives in North Korea. There have been reports of executives at credit unions used by Japanese North Koreans taking money from the accounts of their customers and sending it to Pyongyang.

Chongryon and Money from Japan

It estimated that Chongryon funnels between $600 million and $1 billion into North Korea every year. These funds are North Korea's largest source of foreign currency and its has been alleged that Chongryon has covertly been involved in obtaining high-tech machinery such as jet mills used in making nuclear bombs and missiles for North Korea.

According to the Washington Post, "Former Chongryun officials say North Korea made it clear that the well-being of loved ones back home depended on how often — and how much — their relatives in Japan were willing to contribute to the Kim regime. The blackmail money goes through Chongryun to the government."

A North Korea defector testifying before the U.S. Senate in May 2003, said that 90 percent of the key components in North Korea’s missiles were made in Japan and smuggled to North Korea with the help of Chongroyon.

Chongryon Headquarters Dispute

In May 2012, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The central headquarters building of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) will likely be auctioned off by the Resolution and Collection Corporation collection agency, as the Supreme Court has ruled the building and the plot of land it stands on belong to Chongryon. The headquarters building has served as an embassy connecting North Korea and pro-Pyongyang Korean residents. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2012]

The agency purchased the credit cooperatives' bad loan claims and collected the debts. In 2005, the agency sued Chongryon, claiming that about 62.7 billion yen in nonperforming loans were effectively extended to Chongryon and thus the association should repay them. In 2007, a court ruling ordering Chongryon to repay the entire amount was finalized. Though the agency tried to auction the central headquarters building to collect the debts, Chongryon was not listed in real estate registration records as the owner.

The registered owner was Chosen Chuo Kaikan Kanri-kai, a partnership firm. Thus the agency filed another lawsuit against Chongryon, which was concluded. In the first trial, the judges ruled in March 2009 that the building's owner was effectively Chongryon because there were no records of rent payments from Chongryon to the partnership firm. The lower court's decision was upheld by the high court ruling in December 2010. The agency imposed a provisional attachment on the building and the land after the second ruling. Regarding the top court decision, an official of the agency said, "It was a proper judgment. We'll continue to do our best to recollect the debts." A spokesperson for Chongryon said: "It was very regrettable. It's a facility necessary for [pro-Pyongyang] Korean residents in Japan, and we hope this issue will be resolved through dialogue.”

Chongryon Officials Not Allowed to Reenter Japan after Attending Kim Jong Il Funeral

In December 2011, Kyodo reported: “A North Korean-affiliated organization in Japan asked the Japanese government to allow its No. 2 official to reenter Japan after attending the funeral in Pyongyang of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, but the government refused, citing its ban on reentry by key members of the group, government sources said. [Source: Kyodo, December 23, 2011]

The government has banned the reentry of six senior officials of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Chongryon, who also are members of the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea's parliament. According to a source close to the matter, Chongryon asked Japanese immigration authorities to grant Ho Jong Man, its chief vice chairman, a special exemption on humanitarian grounds to allow him to reenter Japan after traveling to North Korea for Kim's funeral in Pyongyang. North Korea announced Kim's sudden death, citing a heart attack as the cause.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura subsequently consulted with others over the matter and reached a ''political decision"to reject the request, a government source said. At a news conference, Fujimura said, ''There is no special reason that requires us to change how we handle the matter"because of Kim's death. The ban went into effect in October 2006 in the wake of missile launches by North Korea in July and a nuclear test in October that year.

The government's decision to deny an exemption reflects policymakers' respect for the feelings of those abducted by North Korea and their family members, and willingness to take a tough stand against North Korea given the country's hardline stance on abductions and nuclear issues.

Pachinko Industry, Trade and North Korea

About 70 percent of the pachinko parlors in Japan are owned by ethnic Koreans, and about 30 percent of the Korean-owned enterprises are run by people loyal to North Korea. It is estimated that several hundred million to several billion dollars of revenues from pachinko is funneled every year into North Korea, which is desperate for hard currency to buy weapons and technology that can be used in its nuclear program.

Pachinko is very popular game similar to pinball that has turned into an industry in Japan worth tens of billions of dollars. Pro-Pyongyang owners tend be very secretive about their activities. "Everyone knows that some of the money has probably gone to North Korea's effort to build nuclear weapons," one South Korean told the Los Angeles Times. "Some pachinko owners linked to North Korea would like to cut those ties. But if they do, their relatives in North Korea will suffer. It's as if North Korea is holding hostages."

Hundreds of North Korean vessels dock at the Japanese ports of Maizuru in Kyoto Prefecture and Sakai in Tottori Prefecture. The ships bring in fresh halibut, crabs, small clams and matsutake mushrooms and cart away things that nobody wants: rusting secondhand bicycles and discarded refrigerators taking advantage of duty free laws that allow each crew member to take away $3,000 worth of goods. This means that a crew 20 can take 6,000 bicycles values at $10 a piece.

North Korean Schools in Japan

There are about 60 North Korean schools in Japan as of 2010. There are run by Chosensoren, North Korea’s representative organization in Japan, and receive funding from Pyongyang not Japanese government sources — and aren’t even officially recognized in Japan. Some are quite small. Chosen No. 2 in Tokyo has eight teachers and 54 students. Enrollment at the schools has fallen from around 40,000 in the 1970s to 20,000 at 130 schools in 2003 to around 12,000 today. As enrollment has shrunk fees have risen.

Funding for North Korea schools in Japan is a controversial issue in Japan. Their simple presence has stirred up trouble. Some schools have been surrounded by megaphone-carrying activists, shouting for the students and teachers to leave the country. In addition, North Korean students have been harassed and even attacked on their way to school, [Source: Los Angeles Times]

Pro-Pyongyang schools have traditionally been financially supported by the North Korea government At pro-Pyongyang Korean University of Japan, where many classrooms and adorned with pictures of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, student learn Marxist philosophy and juche ideology

At the First Chosen Grammar School outside of Tokyo there are murals that urge students to work hard for the glory of North Korea, recess is filled with North Korean hymns, history books teach how Kim Il Sung led North Korea to victory in the Korean War. Some teach that Kim Il Sung’s birth was heralded by lighting bolts and double rainbows.

Much of the curriculum’such as math and sciences — is similar to that taught in Japanese schools. There are however some key differences. A major part of their curriculum is “Kin Il Song Thought.” Third year middle school students take a course called “Modern North Korean Revolutionary History” that begins with the birth of Kim Il Sung in 1912 and mainly covers episodes glorifying the North Korea leader.

The North Koreans have a different interpretation of Japanese history than the Japanese do. A passage from one textbook, with hangul and Japanese text, read: “Imperial Japan pillaged our country and instituted a cruel repressive colonial regime. This went beyond acquiring food, resources and labor, and developed into a policy of obliterating the Korean people from the Earth.”

Changes at North Korean Schools in Japan

After the North Korea kidnaping issue became a major issue, pressure was put on pro-Pyongyang schools to change or at least tone down their anti-Japanese and pro-North Korean rhetoric. Official portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were removed from the classrooms in many schools. New textbooks had less pro-Pyongyang propaganda and more straightforward and South Korea history, Japanese language and history have been added to the course of study.

The parents of children of a North Korean school told the Washington Post, “We can see now that North Korea is not what we thought it was. It is not a workers’ paradise. We have no wish for our children to learn something that is not true.”

A student told the Washington Post, “I don’t think Kim Jong Il is a good man. I still think the Japanese have a lot to atone for regarding Koreans, but the truth is I don’t particularly like North Korea either...We sometimes sing a song about the leader in North Korea being born on a mountaintop. But I think its sort of funny. Everyone knows that’s not true. He was born in Russia!”

The schools are receiving considerably less money from North Korea than they once did. They got $3.6 million 2003, a quarter of what they got in the late 1980s. As result parents have to pay tuition of around $450 a month, compared to $150 a month in the later 1980s.

In March 2011, the education ministry said that students attending pro-Pyongyang schools would not be eligible to tuition wavers available to students attending other schools in Japan. The move was taken after North Korea shelled a South Korean island. Before the shelling it had been decided that pro-Pyongyang schools did qualify for the tuition wavers. Some politicians want textbooks in Korean schools to mention something about North Korea’s abduction of Korean nationals.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated January 2013

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