The Japanese government has cut funding for 80 schools set up for ethnic Koreans living in Japan, claiming they teach North Korean propaganda.

During the Japanese colonisation of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945, more than 2 million Koreans were brought to Japan to help industrialise the country.

Many lost their lands back in Korea and were used as a source of cheap labour. Their homeland slid into war and the different states, the North and South Korea were created.

About 700,000 ethnic Koreans, many aligned with the North, still live in Japan.

Enrolments have halved since their peak in the 1980s, but there are still about 80 North Korean schools in Japan and most have connections to sister schools in North Korea.

The students learn in Korean and dress in a formal North Korean style.

But the Japanese government has excluded North Korean schools from the free tuition it provides to all other schools, and local governments have also cut their education grants.

North Korean schools will struggle to resource funds, as they barely survive on donations from Korean community members.

The bitter dispute between Japan and North Korea harks back to the abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

North Korea admits to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens, and claims it allowed five to return to Japan in 2002 but says the other eight died.

Japan says it the actual number of those abducted is higher, and wants surviving citizens returned.

The two countries are currently in talks about the issue, with North Korea last month announcing it would re-open the investigation.

Many Japanese are still deeply suspicious of the North Korean schools; some receive small amounts of funding from the North Korean regime.

North Korean schools say education has been politicised

North Tokyo’s Korean High School principal Shin Gil Ung says it is a clear case of discrimination.

“These schools are the result of Japanese colonisation of Korea, so the Japanese government has a moral responsibility to support us,” he said.

Every classroom in the school displays portraits of the North Korean founding father, “the Great leader” Kim Il Sung and “the Dear leader”, his son Kim Jong Il.

Students and teachers have filed a court case against the Japanese government for “mental damage”.

They say education has been politicised and they are becoming hostages to a bitter dispute between the North Korean regime and the Japanese government.

Moon Karyon, 17, says it makes her sad.

“I am the same as any high school student in Japan. Why should I be excluded? I’m proud of my school and what I have learnt,” she said.

In the mean time, 17-year-old Kou Sun Dok is excited to take his first trip to the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang.

“I have learnt about the history of my fatherland and how the leaders made it great and now I can see it and learn more,” he said.