Paku Sukmi (South Korea), 22, company employee, Amagasaki-shi

Two days after the quake, I cycled to ‘a certain place’. It was the Korean Elementary & Junior High School, located in Amagasaki-shi, the junior high school I went to for three years. It was a miscellaneous school run by the students’ parents. I felt very agitated before reaching the school.
There are very few Korean schools in Japan, sometimes not even a single one in a district. Students in the lower grades go to school by school bus, while those in the higher grades by train or bus. It pains me to see these students, even higher grade students, carrying their heavy schoolbags on their back. When the students of the Hanshin primary schools complete their primary education, the Korean junior high school in Tachibana of Amagasaki-shi is the only school they can go to. If this school is down, all the students will lose their only school at once.

I am also a graduate of this junior high school. In my school days, I used to cycle 15 minutes from home to school every day, but I had not been doing this for a long time and I found the journey quite long. On the way, I saw things that I had not seen before – old civilized housing had collapsed and water overflowed on the road.

I thought my school had probably collapsed, but it stood firm.

Hakkyo kwen chanta!’ (The school is all right!) came the high-pitched shouting of the students. I heaved a sign of relief and was glad.

After graduating, I have participated in events organized by the school, but I had never been so enthusiastic. I recalled with nostalgia the day when I graduated. I have already felt the distance of homecoming...

When I returned home, a classmate, who had seldom contacted me, telephoned to ask, “Hakkyo has collapsed, hasn’t it?”(The school has collapsed, hasn’t it?)  She used to travel all the way from Sanda City to school, which might explain why she had a lot of memories of the school.

‘Hakkyo is still there!’ I talked into the mouthpiece with a smile, and she was glad. In our daily lives, we do not get to recall our school life, but I missed the school days very much that day.

If the Japanese primary schools in the regions had been destroyed, I suppose the municipality and prefecture administrative departments would have done something for them real quick. But if the Korean school was totally destroyed and the students could not continue their study, would the school receive the same kind of assistance and support promptly? The Korean schools in
Kobe and Itami were completely destroyed and are being rebuilt. However, they are being rebuilt on half of the already small school compound, and temporary buildings are being built on the other half. As a result, the students have very little space for play.

It is indeed no easy task to rebuild a school. Everyone is putting in his best effort in the hope that the students can study in a slightly better environment as fast as possible. All along, the schools have been run on the funds provided by the parents. Now, the added construction cost is a huge burden to them.

Despite the fact that all those living in Awaji-Hanshin, be it Japanese or foreigners, fell victim to the quake, the support for Japanese and non-Japanese differs so much. I have always felt the difference before, but even more so after the quake. It is not just the school issue, but discriminatory treatment against foreigners, including the Korean. I was born a foreigner in Japan, and I shall support people of the same race as I.

Months after the quake, our lives have returned to normal. Though I still feel somewhat inconvenient, it is nothing compared with those days. I have lost many things to the quake. On the other hand, I have also come to learn a lot more as a result of it.

I don’t know when I will visit my school again. I want to move ahead with my alma mater, which had warmed my heart during that difficult period.