Diaries of foreign hibakusha on display


Diaries of Korean and German atomic-bomb survivors depicting the devastation of Hiroshima and their postwar struggle for compensation are among the exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

In journals that were put on public display for the first time, Shin Yong Su, father of the current South Korean consul general in Hiroshima, writes about how he campaigned for support for Korean victims, while priest Klaus Luhmer describes what the city was like in the days after the bombing.

Shin Hyong Gun, the consul general, provided the documents to the museum for a special exhibition from July 15 to Dec. 14.

“I want visitors to learn that not only Japanese but foreigners also suffered in the atomic bombing, although it is usually said that Japan is the only atomic-bombed country,” Shin said.

Shin’s father, who founded the Korean hibakusha association in 1967, became in 1974 the first non-Japanese to obtain an atomic bomb survivor’s certificate, entitling him to medical allowances.

In a letter also on display that was sent to then Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, Shin Yong Su demands compensation from the Japanese government for Korean victims and urges Tokyo to extend domestic support measures to atomic bomb survivors overseas.

“I also thought the exhibition will provide an opportunity to recognize the brutality of colonial rule, as many foreigners who were exposed to radiation in the atomic bombing came to Japan against their will,” Shin said, referring to Japan’s rule over the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

The consul general’s father was forcibly recruited to work for a Japanese military-designated pharmaceutical company in Hiroshima in 1942, and was exposed to the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945.

An entry in Luhmer’s journal dated Aug. 18, 1945, reads: “On Aug. 6, shortly after 8 a.m., an enormously large fireball appeared above Hiroshima city . . . so I quickly rushed to the staircase leading to the basement.”

Luhmer came to Hiroshima in January 1945 and was exposed to radiation in the atomic bombing at age 28 at the Nagatsuka monastery for Jesuits.

On Aug. 24 he wrote: “I haven’t known how to put it into words in the past 10 days. A number of times I encountered the most tragic forms of deaths.”

An illustration drawn by Giso Shimomura, among the exhibits, also depicts Luhmer and another foreigner carrying other hibakusha in a cart to a relief station for treatment.

Students from China and Southeast Asia, German priests, a total of 12 U.S. prisoners of war and Russians were also among the 350,000 people living in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing, the museum said.