A-bomb survivors in South Korea to seek UNESCO Memory of World listing

Kyodo

South Korean survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki plan to have documents related to their ordeals registered in the Memory of the World register, a UNESCO archive, a group that promotes their rights said Thursday.

“We want to join hands with Japanese survivors in an effort to let our sufferings be better known,” said Won Jeong-bu, who heads the group.

The bid is aimed at raising awareness of their plight worldwide, including in their home nation. It may give the group more ammunition in its bid to extract compensation from the governments of South Korea and Japan.

The Memory of the World register, set up in 1992, is aimed at preserving humanity’s documentary heritage. It currently holds 348 documents and archives from all over the world.

Meanwhile, 371 survivors in the South who accuse the government of not doing enough to seek compensation from the Japanese government will on Friday file a suit seeking compensation from Seoul.

In June, the Seoul Central District Court rejected a similar suit filed by 79 survivors. However, in its ruling, the court said it was difficult to say that the government was doing enough for survivors.

Japan’s government grants special allowances to people certified as atomic bomb survivors. However, it argues that war-related compensation concerning South Koreans was settled “completely and finally” under the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation between Japan and South Korea. The two nations signed the agreement when Tokyo and Seoul normalized diplomatic relations.

The South Korean Supreme Court in May 2012 ruled that individuals forcibly conscripted for wartime labor are eligible to seek redress despite the 1965 treaty.

Since that decision, district courts and high courts in South Korea have handed down rulings ordering Japanese companies to make payments to former forced laborers.

Koreans are the largest group of non-Japanese atomic bomb victims. A survivors’ association estimates that about 30,000 of the 70,000 Koreans in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time survived the bombings.