Memories and Records in Bureaucratic Red Tape: The Acquisition Process of Hibakusha Techō by the Korean Atomic Bomb Survivors

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Oh, Eun Jeong

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Institute for Japanese Studies, Seoul National University
Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol.3 No.1, pp. 103-126
Korean atomic bomb survivorsJapanese Hibakusha Techōmemoryrecordbureaucratic red tape
Of the total casualties from the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, almost ten percent were ethnic Koreans who had migrated or been mobilized to Japan under colonial rule. Following the General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP) repatriation policy vis-à-vis the non-Japanese, tens of thousands of Korean atomic bomb survivors hastily returned to Korea. In the divided peninsula, one of the key sites of Cold War politics in the Far East, their voices were intentionally and unintentionally silenced by the military dictatorships, as well as by social ignorance. Nevertheless, their desperate struggles continued with the support from Japanese civic groups. After several decades of legal proceedings in Japan, they became eligible for financial and medical support from the Japanese government in 2003, once they successfully obtained a Hibakusha Techō—a certificate that recognizes a person as having been exposed to the atomic bombs. Acquiring of a Japanese Hibakusha Techō involves complicated paperwork, including the assembling of verified testimonies and official documents that can confirm the applicants presence in the bombed area at the time of bombing. Unlike in Japan, where public memories and knowledge of the atomic bombings are widely acknowledged, in Korea, records, memories, and information regarding the atomic bombings are stored exclusively within family networks and the organizations of the survivors. By emphasizing the socio-cultural embeddedness, particularly within the interpersonal networks of family and local communities, this study indicates that Korean survivors exclusion from Japans relief policies is due to both bureaucratic red tape and socio-cultural practices. In particular, these bureaucratic procedures are structured to exclude the socio-culturally weak and alienated, such as orphans, former forced draftees, and women isolated from family networks.
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Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원)Institute for Japanese Studies(일본연구소)Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies (SJJS)Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies vol.3 no.1(2017)
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