OSAKA — The Osaka District Court ordered the Osaka Prefectural Government on Friday to pay a Korean survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima medical allowances that it had stopped paying after the man returned home from Japan.
The court ordered the prefectural government to pay Kwak Kwi Hun, 76, some 34,000 yen per month from August 1998 to May 2003, in line with the plaintiff’s demand in the suit, filed in October 1998.
The decision marks the first time a Japanese court has ruled that hibakusha living overseas are entitled to the allowances.
Kwak hailed the ruling, saying the court’s decision would give hope to other survivors presently living abroad. He added that he hopes the government will not appeal the ruling.
The government’s policy of refusing to pay medical allowances to overseas survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings may be unconstitutional, Presiding Judge Jun Miura said.
“It causes inexplicable discrimination between atomic bomb victims in Japan and abroad and may infringe Article 14 of the Constitution,” he said.
The article stipulates that, “All people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”
There are some 5,000 bombing survivors, both Japanese and foreign nationals, currently living abroad, according to Kwak’s lawyers.
Kwak’s suit demanded the central and prefectural governments admit he is qualified to receive the allowance.
Kwak was serving in Hiroshima under the Imperial Japanese Army when the United States bombed the city on Aug. 6, 1945, according to the ruling. He had been drafted into the army in September 1944 during Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula, it said. Kwak left Japan after World War II and moved to Seoul.
In May 1998, Kwak returned to Japan to receive treatment for lower back pain caused by osteoarthritis of the spine.
Officially recognized under the Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law as a bombing victim by the Osaka Prefectural Government, Kwak received free medical treatment and was granted benefits of 34,000 yen per month for an additional five years.
When Kwak returned to South Korea on July 5 the same year, however, the payments came to a halt the following month. The prefectural government justified its decision by referring to a 1974 determination by the central government that benefits for atomic bomb victims do not apply to those living outside of Japan.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said: “We find it unfortunate that the state’s claims were not recognized in the ruling. The way to deal with this issue will be studied mainly by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.”
A spokesman for the Health Bureau and Osaka Gov. Fusae Ota declined to comment.
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