National

Former Hansen's disease patients from South Korea are denied payout

The Associated Press

The government on Monday rejected a demand for compensation from more than 100 former Hansen’s disease patients from South Korea, saying that those forcibly quarantined in former Japanese colonies are not eligible for aid from Tokyo.

Under a 2001 law, Hansen’s disease patients ordered into quarantine in Japan from 1909 to 1996 are eligible for compensation from the government, regardless of nationality or where they live now.

But the law does not cover patients who were held in sanitariums in the former Japanese colonies, including the Korean Peninsula, Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry spokesman Koichiro Iwashita said.

A total of 117 people who had been forced to live at Sorokdo Hospital, a Hansen’s disease colony on an island off the Korean Peninsula’s southwest tip, during the Japanese colonial rule had filed for compensation to Japan’s health ministry from December through March.

Six of the petitioners have since died, Iwashita said citing their lawyer’s report.

Iwashita said those eligible can receive 8 million yen to about 14 million yen per person.

Naoko Kunimine, a Japanese lawyer for the South Korean former Hansen’s disease patients, has said they planned to sue the Japanese government unless the health ministry accepted their request for compensation.

At their peak, sanitariums on the Korean Peninsula housed an estimated 6,000 Hansen’s disease patients during Japan’s colonial rule, which lasted from 1910 to 1945, said health ministry official Chiaki Tanaka.

Japan officially apologized in January 2002 for curtailing the rights of Hansen’s disease patients under laws that forced the bulk of them into isolated sanitariums in the countryside.

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