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New head of A-bomb sufferers' group strives for a world with no new hibakusha

"The dropping of an atomic bomb is an act decided by humans. Likewise, if humans decide to work together, we can eliminate nuclear weapons."

These were the words uttered by 77-year-old Sueichi Kido, who took over from Terumi Tanaka, 85, in June, as secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations after Tanaka had served in the role for 20 years.

Kido, himself an atomic bomb survivor (hibakusha), was just 5 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. He was about 2 kilometers away from the hypocenter, and suffered burns to his face and upper body as a result.

The existence of hibakusha such as Kido became widely known once the press code that was in place during the Allied Occupation after World War II was lifted. He soon began to realize that he himself was a hibakusha. However, fearing discrimination, he decided not to tell people around him.

Twenty-five years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Kido's father died after bleeding from his eyes, nose and gums. Before Kido got married, he told his wife that he was a hibakusha. His wife's older brother opposed the marriage and refused to attend the wedding.

In 1990, he attended a meeting in Gifu Prefecture aimed toward providing consultations for hibakusha, and the following year, he decided to set up a hibakusha group in the same prefecture. He came to feel that it was his duty as a hibakusha "to put his life on the line and strive toward making sure there are no more hibakusha in the future."

In July this year, a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons was adopted -- something hibakusha had wanted to see for many years. Nuclear nations and Japan are critical of the treaty, but Kido says, "There is no justice in the theory of nuclear deterrence. Nuclear nations and Japan are obviously being driven into a corner."

To date, the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations has demanded that a clause on government compensation to people who have suffered from atomic bombs be inserted in the Atomic Bomb Survivors' Assistance Act. As the new secretary-general of the confederation, Kido is striving toward achieving this goal.

"This clause isn't just about atonement for the past. It is necessary in order to ensure that there are no more wars or damage involving nuclear weapons in the future," Kido says.

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