Choi Il Chul
Korea Atomic Bomb Casualty Association
Republic of Korea
Millennium Forum, New York, May 2000
Appeal of Korean A-Bomb Victims
My name is Choi Il Chul, president of the Korea Atomic Bomb Casualty Association.In the 20th century, the world experienced two world wars, in which the atomic bombing and Auschwitz are regarded as the worst mistakes and tragedies in history.Since atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 55 years, more than half a century, have passed. Not only 320,000 survivors in Japan but thousands of them abroad are still suffering from mental and physical hardships caused by A-bomb diseases, isolation, aging and discrimination, etc.
When Hiroshima was attacked by the A-bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, I was a twelve-year-old 6th grader of a primary school. At that moment, I was at my older sister's home at 2-chome, Higashi Kannon-cho town which was about 1.3 km from the blast center. I saw a flash like lightening outside the window near the entrance and the living room. No sooner had I felt a shock so enormous as to collapse the two-story house than I fell unconscious. I came to as I felt choking. I suspected that a bomb might have hit a factory behind the house even though the air raid warning was lifted. I wondered if it might have been an incendiary because I saw a brilliant flash. As soon as I thought that it was an incendiary and I might be burned to death, I frantically moved my arms and legs. Fortunately, I was saved uninjured under the space of a piece of leaning furniture. When my brother-in-law came back home from his work place, just after he rescued my sister, niece, myself and younger brother, fire approached. We desperately ran away toward Koi. If rescue had been delayed 2 to 3 minutes, we all might have been burned to death. What I saw on our way to refuge was a hell on earth.
My older brother was a seaman for the company of Osaka Merchant Ship. He had been in Hiroshima for a one-month holiday. On that day, he left home around 7:00 a.m. to go back to Osaka. He met his friend on the way. He decided to stay one more day in Hiroshima and got off the train. He suffered the A-bombing in front of Fukuya department store, Hattchobori, about 300 m from the explosion center. His upper body was burned by heat rays and he was blown down by blast. After he came to, he desperately ran away toward Mt. Hiji. On the way he fell and was rescued by soldiers and brought to a naval hospital in Edajima. My parents searched for him and brought him back to his family on Aug. 27. On Aug. 30, three days later, he died young at age 19.
After I returned to Pusan, my hometown, in December of the year the war ended, I was confined to bed for two years for a kidney disease. My parents entered the city just after the bombing to look for my brother and were exposed to radiation. My father died of stomach cancer three years after the bombing, and my mother died of the same disease five years after the bombing. My younger brother has become disabled due to the shock of the bombing.
According to a survey conducted by the Police Bureau of the then Ministry of Interior of Japan at the end of 1945, it was estimated that the number of Koreans who were victimized by the atomic bomb was 70,000 in Hiroshima and 30,000 in Nagasaki. Of a total of 100,000, 50,000 were killed by the bomb and of the 50,000 survivors, 7,000 remained in Japan and about 43,000 returned to South Korea or North Korea.Within five years after they returned, among 9,900 people with heavy injuries, 6,930 (70%) died. Also, 5,300 of the 16,500 with lighter injuries (32%), 7,100 among 16,000 with no apparent injuries (44%) died of diseases and in the Korean War. It is estimated that there are about 10,000 survivors in South Korea. Now the membership of our association totals about 2,300. Every year, we have new registrants who have obtained the Hibakusha certificate in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Recently, however, the death toll of the survivors has surpassed the number of new registrants, resulting in a decrease of the membership.
The continuing development of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests have repeatedly destroyed nature and inflicted damage on humanity. Nuclear weapons states have turned their back on the abolition of nuclear weapons, continuing to take the policy of threatening to use them against other countries. Once a war starts, all individuals or states will completely lose their rational senses. It is, therefore, hard to foresee when a nuclear war could break out.
On the occasion of the Millennium Forum, we Korean A-bomb victims will make an appeal with fresh determination to devote ourselves to ensure that nobody on earth will suffer the A-bomb damage and subsequent hardships we have sustained.1 Megaton-class hydrogen bombs are major arms in present nuclear arsenals. Their destructive power is said to be equivalent to 1 million times that of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki type bombs. If nuclear war takes place, it will lead to the annihilation of humankind and the last day of the earth. We call on you to promote cooperation and exert utmost effort to establish lasting world peace in the 21st century by having the Three Non-nuclear Principles observed and abolishing nuclear weapons.The damage we, the A-bomb victims in Korea, have suffered, is the damage Japan inflicted on us during its colonial rule and the war of aggression. As it waged the war of aggression, the State of Japan should take responsibility to make amends for the damage it caused and make post-war compensation to the victims. Evading its responsibility is a violation of human rights. We say that maintaining peace is less costly than dealing with the aftermath of war. We Korean victims demand that the Hibakusha Aid Law enacted in Japan in 1994 should be equally applied to the A-bomb survivors living abroad. Discrimination against the same Hibakusha is a violation of human rights. Thank you.