First public atomic bomb museum to be built in Hapcheon County, “Hiroshima of South Korea”

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

HAPCHEON COUNTY—Hapcheon County in South Gyeonsang Province, South Korea will begin construction of a public museum to display the damage caused by the atomic bombing next year. On December 8, Ha Chang-hwan, 66, the mayor of Hapcheon County and a second-generation A-bomb survivor, gave an overview of the new facility. The museum will communicate and hand down memories of the atomic bombing to visitors in Hapcheon, the so-called “Hiroshima of South Korea,” where many Korean A-bomb survivors settled after returning from Hiroshima after the war. This will be the first public museum in South Korea to feature the atomic bombing.

Hapcheon County is located in the mountainous region in the southern part of South Korea. From the city of Busan, it takes about two and a half hours to reach the area by car. The population there is currently about 50,000. During the colonial days of Japanese rule, many people in Hapcheon County suffered from poverty and headed to Hiroshima to look for work because they had relatives or friends from their hometown already living there. Then they experienced the atomic bombing. Of the 2,600 South Korean A-bomb survivors registered at the South Korean Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association, about 420 live in Hapcheon County.

According to the county’s plan, the museum will be constructed in the 1,500 square meter space next to the A-bomb Sufferers Welfare Center, a facility operated by the Korean Red Cross to provide care for about 100 Korean A-bomb survivors. Photos of the devastating aftermath of the atomic bombing and explanatory boards on the damage wrought by radiation will be displayed at the museum. A cenotaph for the A-bomb victims will be built on the site, too. The construction costs total 2.1 billion won (about 210 million yen), 70% of which will be covered by national government subsidies, and the rest will be borne by the province and the county. Design work for the museum will begin shortly, with the goal of completing the new facility in June 2017. Officials in Hapcheon County are considering a visit to Hiroshima to use the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum as a reference for their plans.

According to Hapcheon County, there is currently no public exhibition on the damage caused by the atomic bombings nor a public place which commemorates the Korean A-bomb victims. After receiving a request from the Hapcheon Branch of the South Korean Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association to build the museum, the county government appealed to the governments of the province and the nation to realize its construction.

Mayor Ha’s parents experienced the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, and his cousin was killed. Mr. Ha said, “Not many people know about the Korean A-bomb survivors, who not only lost family members in the atomic bombing but also suffered hardships even after returning to South Korea. We want the public to learn about them.”

(Originally published on December 9, 2015)