SEOUL – South Korean survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima are urging U.S. President Barack Obama to apologize for the suffering caused by that “horrific crime” against humanity when he makes his historic visit to the Japanese city later this month.
In a letter addressed to Obama, the Association of Korean Atomic Bomb Victims asked him to “offer an apology” when he visits the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on May 27 after the summit of the Group of Seven nations in Mie Prefecture.
Obama was also urged to visit a monument in the park that is dedicated to the tens of thousands of Koreans who were living in the city when the tragedy occurred on Aug. 6, 1945.
The group, whose membership includes more than 2,500 elderly A-bomb victims, said the United States should “acknowledge and investigate the damage caused by its use of the atomic bomb and offer an apology and reparation before it’s too late.”
“We live out the last days of our lives wondering, ‘Is the United States simply waiting for all the victims to die?,'” it said.
According to the group figures, at least 70,000 to 100,000 Koreans were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the bombs fell.
Of the 50,000 of them who survived, 43,000 returned to what became South Korea, where they suffered from the long-term effects of radiation exposure and many died without receiving proper treatment.
They also “faced poverty, discrimination and neglect,” even from their own government, while their children “continue to battle terrifying illnesses.”
Even 71 years later, there has yet to be a full accounting of the Korean victims, “let alone an apology or reparation,” the group said, while demanding “a comprehensive investigation to uncover the truth.”
Besides slamming the United States for evading “responsibility” for its “inhumane” wartime act, the Korean A-bomb victim accused Japan of refusing to acknowledge its own responsibility for invading and placing the Korean Peninsula under colonial rule, and for forcibly conscripting Koreans and sending them to Japan to labor away in places like Hiroshima.
“We hope that your visit to Hiroshima will not be used to further the Abe government’s intention of painting Japan merely as a victim,” they told Obama.
Instead, they said, he should use it as an opportunity to acknowledge responsibility, apologize and “declare to the world that nuclear weapons shall never again be used against humanity.”