There still persistently remains discrimination and prejudice against Korean schools, which has been further fueled by “anti-North Korea” sentiments perpetuated by the media, as well as lack of understanding on Zainichi Korean history among the general public. Under such difficult conditions, Korean schools have been working continuously to build trust with Japanese citizens through various efforts.
In Japanese society, Korean schools are not well known even among neighbors who reside near the campus. Most Japanese people have never seen the Korean schools and have no idea what kind of education is being provided. Despite the fact that Zainichi Koreans make up the largest minority population in Japan, very few people are aware of who they are, and that they are also obligated to pay tax, just like Japanese citizens. Worse still, the baseless rumors that Zainichi Koreans are receiving various privileges have been widely circulating and accepted by a significant number of people, especially since the 2000s.
Although people tend to see Korean schools as “isolated” and “scary” due to state and media-led “North Korea bashing,” as well as deep-rooted discriminatory sentiments toward Zainichi Koreans, they have in fact been putting extra efforts into raising awareness and cultivating friendship with Japanese citizens.
To name a few of their efforts, Korean schools hold many open campus days where local residents are invited to observe classes and enjoy school festivals. There are also Japanese individuals and organizations that have been showing continuous support to Korean ethnic education for decades. For example in Tokyo, Japan Teachers’ Union and Korean schools have been jointly arranging programs to encourage interaction between teachers of both parties for the past 40 years. Although mass media rarely reports such grassroots efforts, friendship and understanding has surely been cultivated between Zainichi Koreans and conscientious Japanese citizens.
In 2013, when Machida City refused to distribute safety alarms to Korean school students based on diplomatic tension between Japan and DPRK, local Japanese residents raised their voice against the city’s blatantly discriminatory policy. As a result of their protest, the city soon reversed their decision. In recent years, Japanese support groups have submitted numerous statements and recommendations to protest against local governments’ suspension of education subsidies to Korean schools (as of January 2017, statements have been submitted by Japan Federation of Bar Associations as well as 14 prefectural/municipal bar associations and shiho-shoshi lawyers’ associations).
These facts tell us that the public opinion surrounding the Korean schools is not necessarily unfavorable.