Korean A-bomb survivors living in Japan “overwhelmed with emotion” during Hiroshima Summit

by Masayuki Ito and Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writers

After South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol visited the Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims of the A-bomb in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, located in the city’s Naka Ward, as the first sitting president, nine Korean A-bomb survivors living in Japan and second-generation A-bomb survivors among those attending the event held a news conference in Hiroshima City. They expressed emotion deepened by the long-awaited visit by a South Korean president and welcomed the gesture of the Japanese and South Korean leaders offering flowers to the monument together.

Kwon Yangbaek, 79, a resident of Higashihiroshima City, said with feeling, “It’s like a dream. I’m overwhelmed with emotion.” Mr. Yankgbaek had made every effort to have the Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims of the A-bomb moved, which once stood on the opposite bank of Peace Memorial Park, into the park. He continued to call on successive South Korean presidents to visit the monument. His long-cherished desire was fulfilled at last.

Park Namjoo, 90, a resident of Nishi Ward, was also delighted at the two leaders’ visit to the monument, saying, “I’m really glad to have lived long.” She said, smiling, “Though South Korea and Japan have been said to be ‘nations close geographically but distant emotionally,’ now the two nations have become nations close to each other. We have to become more friendly with each other.”

Kwon Joon-oh, 73, a second-generation A-bomb survivor living in the city’s Nishi Ward and chair of the Committee Seeking Measures for the Korean A-bomb Victims, revealed that Mr. Yoon’s visit to the monument was reported widely in South Korea as well. He expressed his expectations that the movement toward a world without nuclear weapons would spread, saying, “I think young people in South Korea will also visit the monument from now on.”

Park Uijong, 83, a resident of the city’s Minami Ward and former leader of the Hiroshima Headquarters of the Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan), said, “I’m feeling a lump in my throat.” He expressed his gratitude to Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who invited Mr. Yoon to the expanded meeting of the Hiroshima Summit of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations, which prompted their visit to the monument.

(Originally published on May 22, 2023)