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A Glimpse into the 'Pro-Pyongyang' Schools in Japan

IN PICTURES: The North Korean high schools in Japan, where students study under portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

There are more than 60 schools in Japan that cater to the country’s North Korean minority, standing in solidarity with their homeland.

Under the guidance of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, which acts as North Korea’s de-facto embassy in the absence of formal diplomatic relations with Japan, pupils study Korean language and history.

In an increasingly hostile environment, many students are dismissing the mainstream representations of North Korea popular elsewhere in the world — despite facing bomb threats and other harassment.

“Every time news (about North Korea) breaks, we get anonymous calls threatening to bomb the school or kill students at a nearby station,” principal Shin Gil-Ung told AFP. 

But student Chong Soni, 16, said: "I think all the Japanese media coverage is wrong." And Ryong Chi Hyon, 17, said: "Nations like the United States, which North Korea is confronting, have technical strength. I hope North Korea will develop more technology so it can defend itself from those nations."

Many Koreans living in Japan experience discrimination, facing serious racial issues in areas such as employment and social welfare. Japanese anger over North Korea's nuclear missile program has exacerbated such tensions.

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Students pose for pictures at one of the 60 North Korean schools in Japan.
Students pose for pictures at one of the 60 North Korean schools in Japan. Photo:AFP
About 500,000 ethnic Koreans in Japan are mostly descendants of civilians taken from their homes during Japan
About 500,000 ethnic Koreans in Japan are mostly descendants of civilians taken from their homes during Japan's colonization of the Korean peninsula. Photo:AFP
Students attend a football training session at Korean High in Tokyo.
Students attend a football training session at Korean High in Tokyo. Photo:AFP
Portraits of North Korea
Portraits of North Korea's late leaders hang proudly in the classrooms of the Korean High School in Tokyo. Photo:AFP
Korean students take the Tokyo subway to get home from school.
Korean students take the Tokyo subway to get home from school. Photo:AFP
Students take an exam beneath portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in a classroom at Tokyo Korean high school.
Students take an exam beneath portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in a classroom at Tokyo Korean high school. Photo:AFP
“Every time news (about North Korea) breaks, we get anonymous calls threatening to bomb the school or kill students at a nearby station,” principal Shin Gil-Ung told AFP.
“Every time news (about North Korea) breaks, we get anonymous calls threatening to bomb the school or kill students at a nearby station,” principal Shin Gil-Ung told AFP. Photo:AFP
Students clean the classroom after an exam at Tokyo Korean high school.
Students clean the classroom after an exam at Tokyo Korean high school. Photo:AFP
Hwang Song-Wi (centre) takes a picture with his classmates at Tokyo Korean high school.
Hwang Song-Wi (centre) takes a picture with his classmates at Tokyo Korean high school. Photo:AFP
A teacher gestures after giving an exam to his students at Tokyo Korean high school.
A teacher gestures after giving an exam to his students at Tokyo Korean high school. Photo:AFP
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