Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)

Spring is the season for the entrance in the schools and the new school term. Every year we can see the students going to school in their ch'ima and chokori (traditional dress), but I wonder whether this spring they can wear them.
Since last year, the Japanese media continuously gave news coverage of past abduction cases of Japanese by the North Korean regime, the development of nuclear energy and the tests of missiles conducted by North Korea, on the occasion of the installation of the new President of South Korea. Such public information has strongly influenced not only Koreans living in my district but also all Koreans living in Japan.
The news of the Iraq invasion and the air raids has, certainly, somehow concealed other information about North Korea. On the other hand, mass media often informs us of political refugees and of the official views of the Japanese government to support the American invasion of Iraq, as if there should be a need to cooperate with the United States in order to safeguard Japan from the terrorist acts of the North.
The daily information regarding the abduction issues, last year, evolved in a series of violent incidents and harassment against children of ethnic Korean schools that shocked Korean communities in Japan.
As a result, school children were advised to avoid wearing the ch'ima and chokori dress in going to school. The violent incidents provoked fear and stress to all Koreans living in Japan, not only to schoolchildren, but also to those attending ethnic education and cultural learning and training places.
My impression is that, since last year, greetings and conversation in the Hangul language, as well as the sight of children wearing ch'ima and chokori going to and from school every day have greatly diminished in Ikuno district (Osaka)
I felt really afraid at the following experience I had once. I was walking down the street when I met a child going shopping with his mother. The child said to her "Mama (Onma) I want that", but the mother reproached immediately the child: "never say Onma in public". I feel that Japan is clearly putting pressure on Koreans living in Japan.
In fact, Koreans in Japan bear a past they can not easily forget, like the massacres that occurred at the time of the big Kanto earthquake. Thus, it is not difficult to imagine that they can not feel safe at all the harassment provoked by the abduction issues.
Under such circumstances, there is a movement that started at a rally in Ikuno last year to protect human rights, demanding the investigation and improvement of the situation. In particular, seeking a solution to the harassment against Koreans in Japan, the participants of the rally demanded not only to stop all harassment, but also to desist from all kinds of violence.
Formerly, the approach was basically to oppose the Japanese government and all kinds of discrimination, but people felt there was a need to change the methodology by taking sides with the victims of harassment. One might say that this is a new move to seek peaceful solutions.
Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education and Science alienated the people by announcing, on March 6, that the government does not recognize the titles given by ethnic institutions, like North and South Korean schools to enter University. This was again a blowing shock to Koreans living in Japan.
The new school term is about to start and there are no signs that school children wearing the ch'ima and chokori dress will show up. And there is little hope left to those commuting to ethnic schools to proceed to high studies in the future. This could mean that spring did not yet come to Koreans living in Japan.

Publication book commemorating the 25th anniversary of the "Omoni Hakkyo" in Ikuno.
(500 yen per copy / 310 yen of post costs.)
Contact: Omoni Hakkyo, Tel. 090-7093-7980
Please sign a petition opposing the new directions of the Ministry of Education and Science against ethnic schools.
Tel. 06-6323-1565
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