HIROSHIMA — Survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who live outside Japan have recently been calling for the Tokyo government to give them treatment equal to that of survivors resident in Japan.
Kanji Kuramoto, 71, president of the Committee of A-Bomb Survivors in the U.S., and Chong Sang Sok, 68, chairman of the association of A-bomb survivors in South Korea, visited Hiroshima on July 7 to discuss the issue at a symposium sponsored by Japan-based survivors’ associations. The law to support survivors of the bombings, which was established in July 1995 by combining two existing laws for such individuals, allows survivors of any nationality to obtain identification cards to receive free medical treatment for health problems caused by radiation.
But the identification card automatically becomes invalid once a holder leaves Japan, a policy not mentioned in the law but only in a 1974 directive issued by the director of the Health and Welfare Ministry. In April, the ministry dismissed a South Korean survivor’s request to review the issue and examine complaints over such administrative procedures.
“The ministry mentions the 1974 directive as a reason for dismissal, but does not explain on what reasoning the directive was issued,” said Kazuyuki Tamura, a professor at Hiroshima University who is active in atomic-bombing support groups. Other certificates or identification cards, such as a driver’s license, an ID card for the disabled or assistance measures for families of former Japanese soldiers who were injured during the war, would still be valid even if a holder or a recipient leaves Japan, according to Tamura.
On July 3, survivors of the atomic bombings from South Korea, the U.S., Brazil and Japan submitted a joint proposal to Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi and major political parties, calling for support. According to the presentations at the symposium, it is estimated that there are some 2,300 atomic bomb survivors in South Korea, 1,000 in the United States, 190 in South America and others in North Korea and China.
Many of the survivors living in the U.S. are children of Japanese immigrants, who were sent to Hiroshima to study during World War II, or Nagasaki-born wives of U.S. soldiers who came to Japan after the war, Kuramoto said. “We have been working for decades to obtain assistance from the U.S. federal government, but it is very difficult,” Kuramoto said. “Since it costs a lot of money and takes time to come to Japan to receive medical treatment, we strongly hope that we can get equal treatment at home.”