A TOKYO schoolyard is an unlikely venue to find North Korea’s red star fluttering in the wind. Children inside the Tokyo Korean Middle and High School study textbooks in Korean beneath portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. When classes end, the girls shed their traditionaljeogori dresses for anonymous teenage clothes and blend back into the city.
This school and around 70 more like it in Japan are an unusual legacy of Japan’s difficult relationship with Korea. Large numbers of Koreans came or were brought to Japan during the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula between 1905 and 1945. At the end of the second world war, about 700,000 of them stayed on rather than return to their homeland, which was by then sliding into the Korean war that would split the country into two bitterly opposed states. They were stateless for 20 years until 1965 when Japan recognised South Korea, at which point Koreans in Japan could become South Korean. Those who didn’t became North Korean by default and went to North Korean schools. The schools are an accident of history, often more about continuing a connection to the homeland than about ideological indoctrination.