NAGASAKI -- In what appears to be the first ruling of its kind, the district court here ordered the city government on Jan. 8 to issue official certification as atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, to three South Korean men in their 90s who said they were forced to work at a shipyard in this southern Japan city when it was hit by a U.S. plutonium bomb in 1945.
The three plaintiffs were seeking the nullification of an earlier Nagasaki Municipal Government decision to deny them the certification, which would provide them with some healthcare coverage free of charge.
According to the lawsuit and other information, the three Koreans were forced to work at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works from 1943 through 1944. When the U.S. B-29 Bockscar dropped the "Fat Man" atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, the plaintiffs said they were exposed to radiation at the shipyard or their dormitory and applied for the issuance of the survivor's certificate between 2015 and 2016.
But 70 years had already passed since the end of World War II, and the three workers were unable to present evidence of or witnesses to their exposure to the atomic bomb, which the central government set as a requirement for issuing the certificate. The Nagasaki Municipal Government turned down their applications citing "a lack of evidence."
The three plaintiffs sued the city and central government demanding that the refusal to issue the certificates be nullified. During a court hearing in June last year, the plaintiffs testified of their experiences of surviving the bombing. "All of a sudden the sky turned red with a huge bang and the windowpanes all shattered," one of them said.
The plaintiffs argued that their exposure to the atomic bombing could have been better proved if the central government had kept lists of forced laborers at the Nagasaki shipyard compiled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The lists contained the names of some 3,400 workers from the Korean Peninsula who returned home after the end of the war. The documents, along with severance payments, were deposited with the Nagasaki District Legal Affairs Bureau in 1948, but the office likely discarded the documents in 1970 against a central government instruction.
(Japanese original by Takehiro Higuchi, Kyushu News Department, and Yuki Imano, Nagasaki Bureau)