Former soldier from South Korea applies for A-bomb disease certification

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

Kim Heung Soo, 84, a resident of Seoul, South Korea, arrived in Hiroshima City on September 23 to apply for A-bomb disease certification. He is a former member of Chubu Unit 8876 of the Japanese Army, whose members were assigned to dispose of the dead right after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. No compilation currently exists of testimonies regarding units with members from Korea, so a citizens’ group has recorded Mr. Kim’s recollection of his experiences.

Mr. Kim recounted his memories of 63 years ago to about 10 members of the Hiroshima branch of the Association of Citizens for the Support of South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims, who gathered at Aster Plaza near downtown Hiroshima.

Mr. Kim’s unit was also known as the 103rd Special Land Duty Company. Among the members were 125 soldiers drafted from the Korean Peninsula. They were located in present-day Ujina, in the southern part of Hiroshima City, when they were exposed to the bomb, and they entered the areas near the hypocenter immediately after the bombing.

Mr. Kim recounted the terrible situation that he encountered there and added, “We did not understand the broadcast announcing the end of war on August 15, so we remained on duty until August 21, 1945. Those charred dead bodies hardly looked like human beings.”

He stated that many unit members showed symptoms possibly induced by radiation after they were sent back to the Korean Peninsula, and revealed that only five of the members are still alive today.

Mr. Kim, who suffers from stomach cancer, learned that the criteria for A-bomb disease certification had been eased in Japan and visited Japan with Han Pam Gae, 71, vice president of the South Korean Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association. He will be staying in Hiroshima until September 27. During his stay he will apply for disease certification and have his testimony recorded again on video at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

(Originally published on September 24, 2008)

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