NAGASAKI - A court in Japan acknowledged Tuesday that three Korean men who were forced to work at a shipyard in Nagasaki during World War II were victims of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of the city.
The three men, who now all live in South Korea, applied to Nagasaki for health record books, which officially certify the holders as atomic bomb survivors, between 2014 and 2016. But initially the local government rejected their applications, saying they had no witnesses who could support their claims that they had been in the city when the bomb was dropped.
The three said that they were exposed to radiation in the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, in August 1945, because they had been requisitioned as laborers at the shipyard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.
With no direct evidence to show their exposure to radiation, the focus of the lawsuit was on whether their accounts could be trusted.
Nagasaki District Court’s presiding Judge Mika Takeda concluded that their testimonies were credible, and ordered the city to provide the record books to the three men, Lee Gwan-mo, 96, Kim Seong-Su, 93, and Bae Han-Seop, 92.
The record books enable atomic bomb survivors to receive medical treatment for free at designated hospitals in Japan.
At the court, the plaintiffs had appealed the rejection by the city, saying that their testimonies coincide with those of other conscripted wartime laborers of the shipyard at the time.
Takeda said that there were no logical inconsistencies in the men’s testimonies of how they came to Japan or how they were exposed to the radiation. Furthermore, their accounts are detailed, the judge said.
More than 70 years after the bombing, their accounts cannot necessarily be regarded as “unnatural” even though there is no direct evidence, Takeda said.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said he will consider how to respond after examining the ruling.
To be officially recognized as atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, applicants in principle need to get testimonies from at least two people excluding family members, according to the health ministry.
Mika Nakashiki, a lawyer representing the three men, welcomed the ruling.
“(The judge) understood the difficulties of offering evidence to support their accounts and said that their testimonies were credible,” Nakashiki said in a news conference held after the ruling was handed down. “It will help other people applying to be certified as hibakusha.”