Japanese top court rules in favor of Korean A-bomb victims

September 8, 2015
Yasuhisa Nagashima, a lawyer for South Korean victims of the U.S. 1945 atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, holds a press conference in Tokyo on Sept. 8, 2015, after Japan's highest court ruled that South Korean atomic bomb victims residing in their homeland are entitled to full compensation from local authorities in Japan. Next to him is a framed photo of Kang Sung-joon, a diseased South Korean victim of the bombing. (Yonhap)

Yasuhisa Nagashima, a lawyer for South Korean victims of the U.S. 1945 atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, holds a press conference in Tokyo on Sept. 8, 2015, after Japan’s highest court ruled that South Korean atomic bomb victims residing in their homeland are entitled to full compensation from local authorities in Japan. Next to him is a framed photo of Kang Sung-joon, a diseased South Korean victim of the bombing. (Yonhap)

By Chung Ah-young

Japan’s top court ruled Tuesday that Korean victims of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nakasaki atomic bombings are fully eligible for medical subsidies from the Japanese government.

This is the first time for the Japanese court to decide on full compensation for A-bomb victims living outside Japan. Following the ruling, the Japanese government plans to fully cover medical fees of about 4,200 people.

The Supreme Court of Japan upheld the ruling by lower courts that the government should provide the full medical treatment expenses to three Korean atomic bomb victims, although they are living in Korea.

While the government covers all expenses for victims living in Japan under the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Assistance Act, it has refused to do so for those outside because they are not receiving treatment in Japan. It has limited the subsidy to 300,000 yen (US$2,503) per year.

Lee Hong-hyun, 69, the son of a Korean A-bomb victim, and two family members of two other Korean victims filed the suit against the Osaka Prefecture government in June 2011.

Lee claimed that he was exposed to radiation in his mother’s womb.

“It is nearly impossible for the victims to visit Japan to receive medical treatment,” the court said. “Not providing full medical expenses to overseas A-bomb victims is against the act.”

Korean activist groups supporting the rights for the A-bomb victims hailed the ruling, calling for the Korean government to step up its own efforts to launch a fact-finding investigation for Korean victims.

Some 150 A-bomb victims and activists said in a press conference in Seoul that the Korean government has turned a deaf ear to the A-bomb victims even though the Constitutional Court ruled in 2011 that the government’s lack of diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue was unconstitutional.

“The Korean National Assembly should enact a special bill to support A-bomb victims and the Ministry of Health and Welfare should launch a truth-finding investigation,” they said.

Koreans account for nearly 70 percent of A-bomb victims living overseas, or about 3,000 among 4,280, according to the Japanese government.

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