With gentle encouragement, a group of primary school pupils fill the classroom with the cheerful tones of a children’s folk song. Along the corridor, their peers make brush strokes in the air as they learn their first Japanese characters. Dressed in white T-shirts, blue shorts and plimsolls, the pupils at this school in Chiba, on the edge of Tokyo’s vast commuter belt, look like any others in Japan. The language of instruction, however, is Korean, not Japanese. The notices on the wall are written in Hangul. And as the children listen to their teachers, their attention may be drawn to paintings showing a kind-looking man and his wife, surrounded by smiling children. The man is a young Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea. By the time they are young adults, these children will be proficient in the language of Kim’s country, versed in its music and dance and convinced – in defiance of historical consensus – that the 1950-53 war that divided the Korean peninsula into North and South Korea was started by US-led imperialists. Just two days into the autumn term, historical debate is furthest from the thoughts of teachers at Chiba Korean primary and junior high… Read full this story
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