Hiroshima officially bases health care allowances for A-bomb survivors in South Korea on nongovernmental records

by Uzaemonnaotsuka Tokai, Staff Writer

On July 22, the City of Hiroshima officially informed the South Korean Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association of its policy of providing unpaid health care allowances for atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha) in South Korea, based on nongovernmental records. The association has, praising the policy, called for a swift provision of the allowances for about 300 hibakusha, to whom the city, in all likelihood, has not paid health care allowances.

According to the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Department of Hiroshima City Office, it has finished a thorough examination of the nongovernmental documents of 15 hibakusha among the roughly 300 hibakusha, who may not have received health care allowances. With the approval of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the city will begin to provide the health care allowances at the end of September. The city says that it needs to avoid double payments and will take time to examine the nongovernmental records of the other hibakusha.

On this day, Kim Yong Gil, president of the South Korean Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association, along with others, visited city hall and listened to the explanation from the City of Hiroshima. Mr. Kim held a news conference and explained that, in July 2008, he submitted to the city the documents on medical treatment of hibakusha in South Korea, including a list of names, medical certificates, and receipts of health care allowances, which were held by the association. Mr. Kim argued, “Providing health care allowances for 15 hibakusha a year is too slow. Hibakusha are aging. I hope that the city will move quickly to provide the health care allowances.”

Health care allowances to hibakusha were cut off when they left Japan, in line with the 1974 directive issued by the former Ministry of Welfare. After the Japanese government lost a lawsuit filed by overseas hibakusha, the government scrapped the directive in 2003. Its insistence on a five-year time limit was dismissed at the Supreme Court and the decision was made that the government would retroactively provide the plaintiffs with health care allowances for the entire period.

A portion of the health care allowances have not been paid, as Korean hibakusha who have come to Japan for medical treatment not under the auspices of the Japanese and Korean governments, but by invitations of private organizations, have no official records and have found it difficult to prove that they received treatment. The City of Hiroshima has already, for the first time, decided to provide the health care allowances, based on nongovernmental records.

(Originally published on July 23, 2009)

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