Korean schools cost significantly more than Japanese schools. However, 10 to 20 % of Korean parents with choose to send their children to Korean schools because they foster an ethnic identity.
Japanese public schools are free in terms of tuition, and even private schools receive subsidies from the government, and high schools benefit from the Tuition Support Fund. Korean parents would therefore be paying less if they send their children to Japanese schools.
However, the Japanese schools do not offer an ethnicity-based education for Koreans. Although, in some special cases like in regions such as Osaka, Japanese schools devote a few hours a week to “ethnic classes” for Korean children. But this is not a widespread phenomenon because the Japanese government does not encourage it.
In colonial Korea the Japanese pursued a policy of turning Koreans into subjects of the Emperor, and without taking responsibility in post-war Japan the government continues to deny Koreans an ethnic identity. The Japanese government does not encourage ethnic education because the policies of the Japanese government and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology firmly believe that Koreans living in Japan should be assimilated as Japanese.
As a result of Japan’s policies most Korean children at Japanese schools grow up not knowing their own ethnic language and history.
Furthermore, quite a few Korean parents are afraid that their children may not be able to acquire a sense of self-respect and may suffer from an inferiority complex in Japanese society. This is due to the deeply rooted disdain and discrimination against Koreans, which is demonstrated in rampant hate speech.
An eomeoni [Korean mom] whose child currently attends a Korean school recounts her experiences:
－I went to a Japanese school, I was teased and it made me sad. When I changed my hairstyle or wore a ribbon the other children used to say things like “who do you think you are, Korean!” And whenever a new student came to our school my classmates would say, “watch out for that girl ‘cause she’s a Korean.” When I told my parents they would always say “take revenge on them by studying!” But even if I came first in the class, nothing changed. A teacher even asked me why I didn’t naturalize; making me feel that being born to Korean parents was a great misfortune.
This kind of experience is also common in the first generation Korean residents. Thus, the main reason for the establishment of the Korean schools was to stop children from feeling this way.
The eomeoni continued:
－In order for us Koreans to live with a sense of self-respect and no shame we must have a strong ethnic identity. This is why the learning of ethnic history, culture, and language is essential. For us, the only realistic choice is going to a Korean school. But that’s not all the children learn there. The students at the Korean schools are highly cherished not only by their teachers but also from school supporters and local Korean residents in the hope they will be future members in the Korean community. As fellow Korean residents are watching over, they learn to develop a sense of self-respect and identity as a Korean person.
While some of the parents, like this eomeoni only went to Japanese schools, many of the parents went to Korean schools. Despite the bias against the schools and the expensive tuition costs caused by bureaucratic discrimination, many parents still see many positive aspects and consider sending their children more than worthwhile.