What do you do when a school praising a terrorist country is in your neighborhood?

The recent North Korean missile launches toward Japan are still fresh in many Japanese people’s minds. North Korea and Japan weren’t on good terms before, and now tensions are higher than ever between the two countries.

So it may come as a surprise then to find out that there are North Korean schools in the middle of Tokyo, complete with a pro-North Korean curriculum, framed pictures of the great leaders, and guards to protect the children from angry Japanese protestors.

Recently Vox put out a documentary on the subject, called “Inside North Korea’s bubble in Japan.” It gives a fascinating look into this strange and often-unknown part of Japan, and you can watch it here:

North Koreans in Japan have a long and complicated history with their country of residence. Their ancestors were forcibly brought to Japan after the Japanese Empire annexed Korea in 1910, and it wasn’t until Japan’s defeat after WWII that they were allowed to leave. But many of them had lived in Japan their entire lives, so they decided to stay.

Making matters even more complex, there wasn’t just a “Korea” anymore. The country split into North and South Korea, and it was North Korea that ended up helping the Koreans who stayed in Japan, sending them money and helping their communities by building schools.

▼ The headmaster of one school is
grateful for the assistance North Korea gave…

▼ …as are the students, such as this student from
Korean University, a North Korean-funded college.

At first it almost sounds like a good thing, North Korea having provided their fellow countrymen with assistance. But then we have to remember… it’s North Korea.

Aside from the obvious missile launches and nuclear weapons testing that affect the entire world, in the 1970s North Korea abducted several Japanese people from beaches and brought them back to North Korea, each becoming national events and raising animosity toward the country.

▼ Prefectures providing funding for North Korean schools have dropped,
which of course sounds like a reasonable thing to do…

▼ …but then that discrimination means they need more help from North Korea,
which in turn leads to more nationalism/discrimination. It’s a vicious cycle.

▼ However just when you start thinking the Japanese government
should help, this quote helps put it into perspective.

▼ But at the same time, these are real schools with real children.

It’s a tough situation for sure. The Japanese government doesn’t want to help fund North Korean schools, but the North Koreans don’t want to give up their identity either. It feels like any sort of funding would come with the condition of getting rid of all pro-North Korea elements, but since that’s part of their culture, they won’t give it up.

Be sure to watch the full video so you can see the entire story. We don’t know what the future holds for North Korean schools in Japan, but perhaps North Korean anime could be a small part of the bridge to help the two sides come together.

Source, images: YouTube/Vox