FUKUOKA – The Fukuoka High Court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling ordering the central government to pay a South Korean atomic-bomb survivor living abroad medical allowances designed to assist hibakusha.
The high court rejected a state appeal against a ruling by the Nagasaki District Court, which recognized in 2001 that A-bomb survivors living abroad are eligible to receive these allowances.
The district court had also ruled that the central government should pay the plaintiff, South Korean Lee Kang Young, unpaid allowances totaling 1.03 million yen.
In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Akio Ishizuka said, “Hibakusha do not lose their status or the right to receive the medical allowance by living abroad.”
In December 2001, the district court ruled that Lee was entitled to receive the medical allowances even after leaving Japan, as his departure did not change his status as an A-bomb survivor.
Lee, 75, had filed the suit with the district court, targeting both the central and Nagasaki city governments. The court ruled, however, that only the state should fund these payments, as the Nagasaki city government was merely acting as an agent on behalf of the national government.
The central government appealed to the high court, claiming that, under legislation covering medical treatment for hibakusha, these allowances are limited to survivors who live in Japan.
Lee, a resident of Pusan, also appealed the original ruling, claiming that the Nagasaki city government should have been held responsible for paying him compensation.
According to the district court ruling, Lee suffered radiation exposure in the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, while working in the city as a forced laborer.
He went to live in South Korea after World War II, but traveled to Japan for medical treatment in July 1994.
At that time, Tokyo recognized Lee as an A-bomb victim. He received a health card enabling him to receive medical allowances for three years.
But the Nagasaki Municipal Government stopped paying him these benefits after he left for South Korea in September 1994.
The last ruling over a lawsuit filed by an A-bomb survivor living overseas was issued in December, when the central government lost a case at the Osaka High Court.
By not appealing this decision to the Supreme Court, the government effectively accepted defeat for the first time in a suit of this kind.
In early December 2002, the Osaka High Court ordered the central government and the Osaka Prefectural Government to pay medical allowances to Kwak Kwi Hoon, a Korean survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing who returned to South Korea a few months after obtaining his health card in 1998.
Takeshi Niki, head of the general affairs division of the Health Service Bureau within the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, said the ministry would decide what to do after studying the ruling.
The ruling states that the central government is directly responsible for making the payments.
He added that, after accepting December’s ruling by the Osaka High Court, the government has begun preparations to continue disbursing allowances in cases where a person has received a hibakusha card in Japan but has later left the country.
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