The Tokyo District Court’s ruling on the government’s decision to deny state subsidies to a Korean school smacks of unquestioned support to a misguided policy.

The court accepted the government’s argument in a lawsuit that questioned the legality of the Abe administration’s decision to bar a Korean school from its tuition-free high school program.

The ruling said the education ministry’s decision at that time “cannot be deemed unreasonable.”

The court’s position was especially notable in its conclusion that “the policy cannot be recognized as based on political or diplomatic reasons.”

The decision to exclude Korean schools from the tuition-free program was effectively made immediately after the second administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was inaugurated in 2012.

At that time, a council of experts tasked with discussing the issue had yet to announce its recommendation. The education ministry had promised to “listen to the opinion” of the panel.

In explaining the decision at a news conference, Hakubun Shimomura, who was then education minister, pointed out that there had been “no progress” toward resolving the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese citizens.

Shimomura also pledged to take the “natural step of abolishing” the official policy principle that any decision on whether Korean schools are eligible for the program should be made “purely from the educational viewpoint without diplomatic considerations.”

This principle was adopted by the previous government led by the then Democratic Party of Japan.

Excluding Korean schools from the program for political and diplomatic considerations would run counter to the spirit of the law enacted to introduce free high school education to ensure equal educational opportunities.

Out of concerns that such exclusions could be considered illegal, the government claimed that Shimomura’s remarks were intended only as a message to the people and that the real reason for the decision was the possibility that state subsidies provided to Korean schools could be diverted to other purposes.

It is obvious that the government simply concocted a rationale for its questionable move. The district court, however, accepted the government’s claim without offering any convincing reason to do so.

The ruling makes a mockery of the principal mission of the judiciary, which is to monitor the government’s actions and policies and protect the rule of law.

In a better-reasoned, more fact-based ruling on a similar case in July, the Osaka District Court struck down the government’s decision to bar a local Korean school from the program, calling it illegal. The Osaka court ruled that the decision was based on diplomatic and political factors that had nothing to do with education.

Let us clear up some key points again.

North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens were clearly unpardonable crimes. But that matter is completely unrelated to the importance of guaranteeing students at Korean schools the same educational and growth opportunities as those provided to other young people of the same generation in Japan.

There may be certain connections between Korean schools and the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon). But the school in question serves as an institution that helps young people acquire the knowledge and way of thinking needed to live in this nation as citizens.

Its students share a desire to learn about the language and culture of their ethnic group and form a diverse profile in terms of nationality, including Japanese nationals as well as those with South or North Korean citizenship.

Students at the school will also play various valuable roles for the future of Japanese society.

We have to keep this obvious fact firmly in mind. This touchy question is posing an important test of maturity for our society.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 15