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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Japan compensates Korean A-bomb victim
Hiroshima
Mr Kwak was in Hiroshima when it was bombed
A Japanese court has ruled that a Korean survivor of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima is entitled to compensation from local government.

The case marks the first such award by a court to an overseas victim of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs attacks, which occurred at the end of the World War II in 1945.

A district court ruled that the government should renew payments to Kwak Kwi-hun, whose medical insurance coverage had been cancelled when he moved back to Seoul in 1998.

Hiroshima after bomb
Everything within a 4km radius was obliterated in Hiroshima
The court ordered the Osaka prefectural government to pay more than $16,000 in backdated payments.

Mr Kwak, who was forced to serve in the Japanese Imperial Army during the war, suffered a spinal injury during the bombing of Hiroshima.

"I am overjoyed to have gotten what I asked for," Kwak said.

The government has previously said people living overseas were not eligible for benefits.

Correspondents say the ruling will put pressure on the authorities to pay allowances to the 5,000 overseas survivors of the atomic bomb.

Unconstitutional

Osaka District Court Presiding Judge Jun Miura ruled that the government may have violated Article 14 of the constitution in not paying overseas atomic bomb survivors.

The article calls for equality under the law regardless of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.

Mushroom cloud of Nagasaki
The radioactive effects affected some victims years later
The court, however, rejected Mr Kwak's demand for 2 million yen ($16,840) in damages for emotional suffering, a justice ministry official said.

The official added the Osaka government and Labour Ministry were considering appealing the verdict but had made no decision.

Many Koreans were forced to serve as soldiers, labourers and sex slaves to the Japanese Imperial Army during Tokyo's colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

Mr Kwak had been drafted into the army in September 1944.

He returned to South Korea after the war but in 1998, when his condition worsened, came to Japan and was recognised under the Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law as suffering form the effects of the bombing.

The Hiroshima bomb was dropped on 6 August, killing 140,000 people and days later, the US dropped a second atom bomb on Nagasaki, killing 70,000 people.

Japan surrendered unconditionally on 15 August, 1945.

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See also:

05 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
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