Hiroshima group supporting Korean A-bomb survivors to end its activities

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

The Hiroshima Committee to Invite Korean A-bomb Survivors to Japan for Medical Treatment announced on May 12 that it will end its activities. The group has provided free medical treatment for a total of 572 Korean survivors over the past 31 years up to 2015. Because the Japanese government began covering all medical expenses for A-bomb survivors living overseas in January, the group feels that its work is now complete.

The support group was established in August 1984 by 23 doctors in the city of Hiroshima. It raised funds from across the country and forged ties with 12 hospitals, located mainly in Hiroshima Prefecture, to host the Korean patients. For many years, Korean A-bomb survivors had been outside the scope of support measures provided by the Japanese government. While the Japanese government initiated a project in 1980, in cooperation with the South Korean government, in which Korean survivors were able to visit Japan to receive treatment, this project was discontinued in 1986. Against this backdrop, the doctors sought to lend support to Korean survivors by joining forces with Hiroshima citizens.

According to the group, when the effort first began, 30 to 40 Korean survivors were invited to Japan annually through the South Korean Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association. These people included patients with serious cardiac-related diseases, and as they grew older, it became more and more difficult for them to visit Japan. In addition, with the Japanese government beginning to provide partial coverage of their medical expenses, the number of survivors visiting Japan for treatment declined further. During recent years, the number of people taking advantage of the group’s support fell to about three a year.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of full reimbursement of medical expenses to survivors living overseas, a judgment based on the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law of September 2015, the group had been discussing the end of its activities since December.

On May 12, four members of the group held a press conference at City Hall. Referring to his father, Torataro, a doctor of internal medicine who devoted himself to establishing the group (and died in 1987 at the age of 73), Yuzuru Kawamura, the current chair, said, “My father was always telling me that he would not be able to retire until the day the government started covering the survivors’ medical expenses. But that day has finally come, and we’d like to express our gratitude to the many people who have offered us their support.” The group will compile the history of its activities into a booklet and send 300 copies to all related groups in both Japan and South Korea and to libraries in Hiroshima Prefecture.

(Originally published on May 13, 2016)