Sunday, August 14, 2011

Korean victims of atomic bombings in Japan neglected

The whole nation today will celebrate Liberation Day falling every year on Aug. 15 but victims of the atomic bombs falling in Japan in 1945 have mixed feelings and at this time of year their bad memories become more vivid.

“Of course, it’s the day when we should celebrate our independence from dreadful Japanese colonial rule,” Kim Il-jo, Korean A-bomb victim, told The Korea Times one day before the 66th Liberation Day. “But I also feel very sad as it reminds me of the devastating days after the atomic bombs were dropped.”

Some 200,000 people were killed or died within three months after the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs in Japan _ the first in Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and the second three days later in Nagasaki. Of the fatalities, about 40,000 were Koreans but they have soon become a long-forgotten part of history.

Kim, 18 at the time, was able to avoid the direct impact of the bomb as she lived on the outskirts of Hiroshima.

But she suffered from radiation exposure and financial difficulties after being expelled to her mother country along with her husband just like the other Korean survivors following Korea’s independence.

“I always feel sorry for other A-bomb victims who have already passed away without receiving proper social protection and care. Unlike now, no one really paid attention to us,” the 84-year-old said.

Her husband was also one of many A-bomb victims who passed away before receiving proper compensation. “He died suddenly at the age of 58 without any chance to receive medical treatment or anything.”

Kim now stays at a sanatorium for A-bomb victims in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, and receives a monthly allowance of 33,800 yen and support for medical expenses under the Japanese relief law. But it was only after first-generation victims won a long legal battle against the Japanese government in 2003.

The sanatorium was built in 1990, as part of an agreement between the Korean and Japanese governments, and is run by the Korean Red Cross. It is home to 109 first generation A-bomb victims.

According to the Korea Atomic Bomb Casualties Association, some 2,600 people are currently registered as A-bomb survivors and more than 60 percent of them are from Hapcheon.

“About 10 to 15 percent of the people at the sanatorium can move freely, and the seriously-ill ones have already passed away,” Jegal Loklim, an official from the sanatorium, said.

Despite the huge impact the atomic bombs had on their lives most of the second and third generation victims are not eligible for any compensation.

According to the nation’s first health study on 2,800 first- and second-generation A-bomb victims in 2004, the prevalence of anemia among males of the second generation was 88 times higher than the average men of the same age.

The study, which was conducted by the Association of Physicians for Humanism, supported by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, also revealed that other illnesses such as heart disease, depression and asthma were also much more common in second-generation victims.

Many civic groups argue that the government should offer more practical help to Korean A-bomb victims. To commemorate them and increase public awareness, an annual memorial ceremony is held on Aug. 6 each year in Hapcheon.

Source: The Korea Times

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