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Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi called Friday for a law on medical allowances for atomic bomb survivors to be revised so it covers survivors living outside Japan.

“We should think whether the law should be maintained as it is,” Sakaguchi told a news conference at the ministry. “We should think more seriously about how to deal with A-bomb survivors abroad.

“The Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law should be amended (so that those abroad will be covered). Discussion on the issue should be started in cooperation with judicial circles (with the aim of reaching) a conclusion within the year.”

His remarks came after the government filed an appeal earlier in the day against the first court ruling in Japan to order that financial support be paid to overseas survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings in 1945.

The health minister’s comment is expected to stir debate within government circles.

The government’s appeal was filed against a June 1 Osaka District Court ruling that ordered the Osaka Prefectural Government to pay the medical expenses of

Kwak Gwi Hun, 76, a South Korean survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. He was paid the allowance while living in Osaka but it was halted when he returned home.

Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said the appeal was made because, “It was taken for granted that the law for compensation of atomic bomb survivors would not cover survivors living overseas when it was passed in 1994.”

The suit was filed in October 1998 against both the state and Osaka Prefecture.

Sakaguchi, a veteran Lower House lawmaker from New Komeito, is known to have been involved in the government’s decision last month not to appeal a court ruling involving former Hansen’s disease patients.

Sakaguchi practiced medicine before turning to politics and was known as a rights advocate for socially disadvantaged people.

A majority of high-ranking government figures have thus far said the A-bomb issue differs from the plight of former Hansen’s disease patients in terms of its legal scope and public opinion.

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