International Meeting
2001 World Conference against A&H Bombs

Kwak Kwin Hoon
Plaintiff, Lawsuit on Applying Relief Law to Atomic Bomb Victims Abroad
Republic of Korea

It is said that about ten percent of those killed or injured in A-bombed
Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 were South Koreans. Because
South Korea was in a turbulent period before and after its independence and
there were subsequent disturbances, we, the South Korean A-bomb victims
were left alone without any relief and many of us were plagued with
disease, poverty and starvation and died in destitute.

When the relief program for Hibakusha was initiated in Japan after the
enactment of two A-bomb laws, no relief was given to us, and the issue of
compensation to South Korean A-bomb victims was not discussed in the
Japan-Republic of Korea Treaty. We, therefore, founded the South Korea
Atomic Bomb Victims Association in 1967 and have been claiming compensation
and relief from Japan which was responsible for causing our suffering.

The Japanese government has never dealt with us seriously, claiming that
"the issue of compensation has already been settled in the Japan-Republic
of Korea Treaty". It was exactly 30 years after our exposure to the A-bomb
when the Japanese government finally started to issue A-bomb victim
certificates (Hibakusha Techo) to the South Korean A-bomb victims after its
defeat in the Son Jito trial in 1974.

However, on July 22 the same year, when a South Korean A-bomb victim
applied for Hibakusha Techo, on that very same day, the Ministry of Health
and Welfare went against the court ruling by submitting an official notice
from the chief of the bureau stating that "this Techo becomes invalid when
the holder leaves Japan." Thereafter the Ministry even went so far as to
ignore the Supreme Court ruling and for these 27 years has never admitted
the A-bomb victims residing outside Japan as certified Hibakushas. It was
appalling to find that in law-governed Japan, the chief of bureau notice
superceded the Supreme Court ruling. During this time 90 % of the South
Korea A-bomb victims have died and now only 10 % or 2,200 people are

When I was hospitalized in the hospital in Osaka in May, 1998, I was given
a Hibakusha Techo and became eligible for a health management allowance to
be paid for five years. When I was about to go back to South Korea, I
asked the Osaka prefecture office to pay the allowance to my bank account
during my absence, their reply however was that I was no longer eligible
for the allowance, since I forfeited my right by leaving the country. We
therefore filed the lawsuit on October 1 the same year and the ruling was
completely in favor of us.

In the trial, the Japanese government and Osaka prefecture government gave
various arguments, saying that the Relief Law was a social security law for
Japanese and foreigners who were not paying tax were not eligible, or that
the Law was established in the process of legislation based on the
understanding that foreigners were to be excluded. The Supreme Court
justice however made an unequivocal decision, stating that "since the
Relief Law was a law made to provide relief to A-bomb victims, and
considering from a humanitarian stand point, it shall aid all A-bomb
victims regardless of their nationality, and the act of discriminating
against those who have left the country from those who
reside in Japan may be violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Soon after the court judgment, I went to Tokyo and met with leaders of
political parties, the Justice Minister and the Health, Welfare and Labor
Minister and strongly claimed that they shold withdraw from appeal just as
they did in the Hansen's disease case 20 days ago. The government however
appealed to a higher court with a vague reason saying that "the issue is
different from Hansen's disease", so we have a long way to go in the court
dispute and my heart aches with deep sorrow when I consider the age of
victims abroad and cannot help but shed tears.

The average life expectancy of a male in South Korea is 70 years old, and
the average age of conscript workers who constitute most of South Korea
A-bomb victims is 78. That means we are 7 or 8 years older than the
average life expectancy. If it takes five years until the case is brought
to the Supreme Court, how many could survive until the final ruling? This
is exactly the point the Japanese government is aiming at. The number of
A-bomb victims abroad is around 3,200 in North and South Korea combined,
1,000 in the United States, and 190 in Brazil, which makes the total as
little short of 4,500, and they are all getting old. So we have no time.
We need to tackle the issue of relief immediately. This is exactly what
the humanitarian way is all about. Though there has been a delay, the
Japanese government must keenly realize its responsibility in WWII and, as
an expression of remorse, must tackle the issue of relief for A-bomb
victims abroad.

Because of the public criticism both within and outside of Japan against
the court appeal, the Japanese government has been trying to get around the
situation by making up various rumors, such as contribution of an extra
four billion yen, or establishment of a Study Committee for the possible
amendment of the Relief Law, or payment of travel allowance for those who
come to Japan for treatment. But let me state this explicitly. It is all
just their tactics to deceive you and you must not fall into their traps.

If they care about A-bomb victims abroad, all they need to do is to accept
the court rulings or terminate the official notice No. 402. They do not
need to go a roundabout way. Who asked them for any money?

The Japanese government has completely discriminated us, the South Korean
people, especially the South Korean A-bomb victims by consistently adopting
a policy of cruel treatment. This kind of attitude must be corrected
immediately. Even without giving any concrete example, the fact that the
percentage of South Korean victims of the total A-bomb victims fell from
initial 10% to less than 1% at present eloquently tells the history. The
21st century shall not be an era of discrimination and prejudice but an era
of cooperation.

I will continue to fight through the High Court and the Supreme Court to
win the human rights for A-bomb victims abroad until my life comes to an
end. I deeply appreciate your ardent support as before.

Thank you.