Health minister Chikara Sakaguchi said Friday he plans to set up a panel of legal, health and welfare experts to consider revising the law on support for survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings.
“We will set up a panel of six or seven experts, possibly in July, to discuss the issue once a month,” Sakaguchi told a news conference after a morning Cabinet meeting.
Sakaguchi said June 15 that he wants the law reviewed because it is ambiguous on provisions for survivors who live abroad.
The government filed an appeal June 15 against an Osaka District Court ruling that the health ministry’s interpretation of the law as not applying to survivors overseas could be unconstitutional.
The proposed panel is expected to discuss this interpretation and clarify the provisions on eligibility for government support.
The Osaka court ordered the prefectural government on June 1 to pay the medical expenses of South Korean survivor Kwak Kwi Hoon. Kwak, 76, who filed the suit, was exposed to radiation in Hiroshima following the U.S. atomic bombing of the city on Aug. 6, 1945.
The district court cited “the possibility of unconstitutionality” because such different treatment from domestic residents “could generate discrimination that cannot be accounted for” and ordered the Osaka Prefectural Government to disburse financial aid.
Both local and central governments appealed, saying the exclusion of overseas A-bomb victims is in line with the objective of the law.
Kwak said he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army in September 1944 and taken to Hiroshima.
He returned home after World War II, but in May 1998 he visited Osaka for treatment for back pain. On June 18 the same year, the local government decided to grant him a monthly allowance of 34,000 yen to cover medical expenses until May 2003.
But this was discontinued after he returned to South Korea on July 5.
Kwak filed the suit in October 1998 against both the central and prefectural governments.
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