2002 World Conference against A and H Bombs
Choi Il Chul
Former President, Korean Atomic Bomb Casualty Association
The Resolve from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Ban and Eliminate Nuclear Weapons
My name is Choi Il Chul, a survivor of Hiroshima. I was 12 and a sixth grader when I was bombed in a house where my elder sister lived. It was about 1.3km away from the hypocenter. A bomb blast came with a flash. The upper part of the two-storied house as blown off and then the whole house collapsed. When I came to myself, I did not know what had happened. I managed to escape from under the debris and fled the site. My 19-year-old elder brother came under bomb attack when he was in Hocchobori in the center of the city and sustained severe burns on many parts of the body. He died in about two weeks. In the wake of the war’s end, in December, we returned to returned to our hometown Pusan. Three years later, my father died. My mother also passed away five years after we returned to Pusan. My younger brother is physically handicapped for life. I was bedridden for two years.
Many Koreans fled their homeland under Japan’s harsh colonial rule. And we fell victim to the atomic bombing simply because we came to live in Hiroshima or Nagasaki in their quest to start a new life. Also, several millions of young Koreans were mobilized for Japan’s war of aggression. They were taken to the army or forced to work at ammunition factories, coal mines or construction sites. Some of them were atom bombed.
A survey conducted in late 1945 by the security bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Interior found that 100,000 Koreans came under the atomic bomb attacks, 70,000 in Hiroshima and 30,000 in Nagasaki. It estimated that 50,000 of them died instantly. Of the 50,000 survivors, 7,000 were believed to have remained in Japan, while the rest returned to South Korea or North Korea.
As for those Korean survivors who returned to Korea, in the first five years, 6,930 out of the 9,900 heavily injured people, or 69 percent, died; and 5,300 out of the 16,500 lightly injured people, or 32 percent died. Out of 16,000 people survivors who had no external injuries, 5,600, or 34 percent, died, including those who died in accidents.
Afterwards, 13,000 out of the 25,000 survivors died of diseases or in the Korean War. Today, it is estimated that there are about 12,000 Korean A-bomb survivors. Some 2,000 are registered with the South Korean A-bomb Sufferers Association, and 40 to 50 die every year due to old age.
Korean Hibakusha are excluded from the Hibakusha Aid Law. Calling for the law to be applied to overseas Hibakusha, we filed lawsuits with the Osaka and Nagasaki district courts. Both courts upheld our demand. But the Japanese government has refused to accept the court rulings and appealed to a higher court. First generation Korean Hibakusha are dying without a right to live in good health being recovered. Time is running out.
Japan is responsible for the Korean survivors’ sufferings and has the duty to repair their damage.
Settling the past problem is for Japan to show their remorse for what it did in the past and act to solve the problem. In our view, this problem will only be considered settled when the victim people become ready to forgive the past. However, many Korean survivors have not stopped demanding that Japan compensate them.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the genocide in Auschwitz are referred to as 20th century’s two greatest tragedies. Although the world’s people, including Hibakusha, are earnestly wishing that these tragedies must not be repeated, the endless race for the development, manufacturing and possession of nuclear weapons has accumulated more than one million Hiroshima- or Nagasaki-type nuclear bombs throughout the world.
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were very small for nuclear weapons, with the yield of 20-kiloton TNT, but they produced heat rays of several thousand degrees Celsius, fierce blasts, and deadly radiation, which were powerful enough to burn every living thing, destroy every object. This was how Hiroshima and Nagasaki were ruined in a second.
Modern nuclear weapons are thermonuclear weapons with a megaton-level destructive power. War would deprive individual persons of reason. No one can tell when war will break out, but, should a nuclear war break out, that will mean an end of humankind and the earth.
The nuclear development and testing keeps on destroying nature and causing damage to humankind. Nuclear weapon states are bent on the policy of blackmailing other countries and turning their backs on the elimination of nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapon-free world is the common desire of all humanity, but the existing non-proliferation regime cannot achieve it because it allows a handful of countries to retain nuclear weapons. So long as nuclear weapons exist, there will be no world peace. The effort to get nuclear weapons abolished and prevent nuclear war, is a major issue that has an important bearing on the survival of humankind.
The use of nuclear weapons is illegal and in contravention of human reason, and constitutes a major social crime. Humans and nuclear weapons cannot coexist. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with other Hibakusha and on behalf of all those who fell victim to the atomic bombing, we call on the world’s people for “No more Hiroshimas!” and “No more Nagasakis!”
The same mistake must not be repeated anywhere on the earth!
We strongly demand the total ban and elimination of nuclear weapons!