TOKYO -- The Supreme Court has upheld lower court rulings that excluded a pro-Pyongyang Korean school from a high school tuition waiver program and dismissed a damages claim from former students in a decision dated Aug. 27.
The top court's Third Petty Bench turned down an appeal filed by 61 former students of Tokyo Korean Junior and Senior High School in the capital's Kita Ward, who argued the exclusion illegal and demanded the government pay compensation of 100,000 yen per plaintiff.
All five justices on the Third Petty Bench agreed that the plaintiffs' appeal was not lawfully valid. Four other similar lawsuits have been filed across the country, but it is the first time the Supreme Court finalized a decision.
In April 2010, the administration led by the then Democratic Party of Japan introduced a program to provide subsidies to cover high school tuition fees, and pro-Pyongyang schools across Japan applied for such a designation.
But the schools' connections with the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) was called into question, and in 2013, after the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power, the government decided to not designate the schools including Tokyo Korean Junior and Senior High School for subsidies.
In September 2017, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the then education minister's decision to exclude the school -- on the grounds that it cannot be confirmed whether the institution is properly operated when considering the influence of pro-Pyongyang Chongryon and other circumstances -- does not constitute an abuse of discretionary power, and rejected the damages claim. This ruling was upheld by the Tokyo High Court in October 2018.
In response to the Supreme Court's ruling, the legal team for the plaintiffs commented, "We object to the decision to dismiss (the case) without providing any specific reason. We demand the Korean school be designated (for the tuition waiver program) as soon as possible."
Among the five lawsuits that were filed with district courts and their branches, a July 2017 ruling by the Osaka District Court was the only one that sided with the school and ruled the exclusion illegal. However, the decision was overturned by the Osaka High Court, which ruled in favor of the government in September 2018. Remaining suits are currently pending at the Nagoya, Hiroshima and Fukuoka high courts.
(Japanese original by Akira Hattori, City News Department)