First class action lawsuit by A-bomb survivors in South Korea

by Kanako Noda, Staff Writer

An estimated 380 A-bomb survivors (hibakusha) residing in South Korea, the country with the largest population of survivors outside Japan, are now moving forward with their first class action lawsuit at district courts in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Osaka. Demanding that the Japanese government provide compensation for damages, the plaintiffs contend they have been burdened by pain and suffering due to the government’s disregard for their rights as hibakusha under the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law. In one instance, their allowance for health care was discontinued on the grounds that they are not residents of Japan. This lawsuit by South Korean hibakusha, following a claim filed by survivors living in the U.S. and Brazil, is expected to eventually involve 2,000 plaintiffs.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs stated that roughly 120 plaintiffs will file with the district court in Hiroshima, 120 to 130 plaintiffs in Nagasaki, and 130 plaintiffs in Osaka. The plaintiffs are demanding compensation of 1.2 million yen per person for pain and suffering. Other A-bomb survivors in South Korea, too, are expected to file more class action lawsuits in the future.

In November 2007, the Supreme Court ruled on a case which had been filed by former conscripted laborers from South Korea, demanding that the central government provide state compensation to the plaintiffs. The court found that “Directive No. 402,” issued by the former Ministry of Health and Welfare in 1974, an order which provided the basis for revoking the Health Management Allowance for A-bomb survivors once they left Japan, was illegal. Based on this ruling, officials of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced this past August that the government will provide 1.2 million yen per person on the condition that A-bomb survivors file lawsuits against the state and the court recognizes the facts of their claim.

Supporters living in Nagasaki noted that hibakusha residing in Sweden and other countries, besides those in the U.S., Brazil and South Korea, are proceeding with preparations for their own lawsuits.

(Originally published on December 2, 2008)

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