SEOUL/HAPCHEON, May 13 (Korea Bizwire) – A group of South Korean victims of the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Thursday demanded an apology and compensation from both the United States and Japan.
“Nuclear bombs were dropped and Koreans in Japan at the time were victims,” a shelter for bombing victims in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, said in a press release.
The demand comes as U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima later this month, making him the first sitting American president to do so.
The victims pointed out that “Japan has thoroughly hid its own war crimes while only emphasizing the fact that it was victimized by the bombing.”
The atomic bombing of Nagasaki occurred on Aug. 9, 1945, just three days after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The two bombings led to the end of World War II and Korea’s independence from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.
The two events are believed to have caused more than 70,000 Korean casualties, including the deaths of some 40,000. Some 23,000 have returned to South Korea.
Most Korean victims were in the city as forced labor, but little has been done to compensate or remember their loss.
“Only 6 percent of the bombing victims, or 2,584, are currently alive and they have not received any compensation or apology from the United States,” they said.
The victims urged Obama to recognize their plight when he visits on May 27 with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The historic trip will take place after Obama and other leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries hold two days of talks in the city of Ise-Shima starting May 26.
The Seoul government estimates that most of the surviving victims living in the country are on average 82 years old and suffer from various side effects ranging from skin disease to cancer. They only receive on average about 300,000 won (US$270) from the Tokyo government and 100,000 won from the Seoul government per month.
The shelter, built in 2010, is run by a non-profit organization and tries to help not only the victims but their descendants who also suffer from various forms of illnesses.
Also on Wednesday, another group of South Korean victims said that they will actively seek an apology and compensation from Washington.
“We will deliver the message from the victims to President Obama,” Sung Rak-koo, head of the Korea Atomic Bombs Victim Association, said, further demanding that the U.S. leader pay tribute to South Korean victims as well.
Obama is expected to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park but it remains unclear whether he will also visit a monument dedicated to Korean victims, which is located inside the park
“I was only 2 years old when the bombing occurred,” Sung said, stressing that most South Korean victims were forcibly taken by Tokyo and worked as laborers at the time.
The White House has made clear that the highly symbolic visit will not be an apology, saying Obama will offer a “forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”