ArticleForum Held in Japan on Holding the U.S. Government Accountable for Dropping A-Bombs

Forum Held in Japan on Holding the U.S. Government Accountable for Dropping A-Bombs

  • Asia, Chapters, Culture of Peace, Japan Chapter, North America

By Joseph Essertier, World BEYOND War, June 11, 2024

On the 7th and 8th of June, the Second International Forum for an “International People’s Tribunal to Hold the U.S. Accountable for Dropping A-bombs” was held in Hiroshima Japan. The purpose of the forum was to plan a People’s Tribunal in New York in 2026. The Tribunal will mainly seek justice for Korean atomic bomb victims (hibakusha) by establishing the historical facts and clarifying the legal responsibilities of governments under international law. Unlike many Japanese hibakusha, the Korean hibakusha have yet to receive official recognition or medical support from any government, not from the governments of the U.S., Japan, or South Korea. Many Japanese hibakusha have received official recognition and medical support from the Japanese government. None of the survivors have received an apology, recognition, or support from the U.S. government.

The government of Japan is responsible for the colonialist violence that the Empire of Japan (1868-1947) committed against Koreans for over half a century, during the period spanning from the end of the 19th century until the end of the War in August 1945. That violence caused the displacement of millions of Koreans, whether internally displaced or as refugees; hundreds of thousands of them were enslaved as forced laborers in Japan or were compelled to seek work in Japan due to the disruptions in the economy caused by the Empire’s colonization of the Peninsula. The U.S. government is responsible for the two nuclear bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which immediately killed tens of thousands of Koreans, in addition to over one hundred thousand Japanese, and directly harmed the long-term physical and mental health of over one million people in both Korea and Japan, not to mention the hibakusha of other countries, or the world’s people who have lived—all of us—under the threat of nuclear war for many decades.

The U.S. is also partially or mostly responsible for the division of Korea and for countless human rights violations against the people of both South Korea and North Korea, and against the Korean diaspora in the U.S. and other countries. The U.S. along with several Western governments are responsible for the crimes committed against Koreans during the Korean War that was paused with a ceasefire in 1953.

Not only concerned with the past but also looking to the future, an aim of the Tribunal is “to establish the illegality of the U.S. atomic bombings in 1945 to secure the basis for condemning all nuclear threats and use as illegal today.” If the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were illegal under the international laws that were already in effect in 1945, then the “use and threat of nuclear weapons today” would also be illegal.

It is hoped that the Tribunal will contribute to consciousness raising about the dangers of nuclear weapons, the “realization of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a nuclear-free world.”

The Forum was organized by SPARK (Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea). Fifteen NGOs will also support this effort.

Participants in the Forum on the 7th and 8th of June, and the participants in planning meetings immediately before and after the Forum, included several jurists and scholars from South Korea, the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand; a few organizers from peace and human rights organizations in the U.S., Europe, and East Asia; Christian faith leaders; and researchers in peace studies.

It is hoped that journalists and other participants will produce more detailed reports in the coming weeks.

Sim Jintae (80 years old) is a prominent Korean hibakusha who has campaigned for the rights of all Korean hibakusha. Here he is seen giving his moving testimony.

Two Japanese jurists on the left and three Korean jurists on the right. This was just one of several expert panel discussions.

The main monument for the Korean victims and survivors.

A box-shaped stone just to the right of the main monument above. It has an explanatory text on one side in Japanese and the other in English.

The English explanatory text.

A banner displayed with their demand to the United States clearly written.

We all went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and learned a little about the history of the bombing. (It was an emotional shock for me even now to see the photos, videos, artefacts, children’s clothing, etc. from that one day on 6 August 1945).

An influential poem written by Tōge Sankichi (1917-53). He wrote this under a cloud of U.S. censorship.

The English translation is engraved on the other side of the stone.