Plaintiffs hold a news conference on July 9 after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the government would not appeal a district court ruling that ordered compensation paid to family members of former Hansen's disease patients. (Video footage by Toshiyuki Hayashi and Kotaro Ebara)

There were growing calls for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to meet with the kin of former Hansen's disease patients after he announced July 9 the government will not appeal a district court ruling ordering it to pay compensation to the family members.

While Abe's decision was welcomed by plaintiffs, they also insisted that much more remains to be done before they can find closure.

Family members touched upon the decades of discrimination and prejudice they faced because of the official segregation policy that kept them away from loved ones with the disease for many years.

"There are still many people among the former patients and their family members who remain separated," said Hwang Gwang-nam, a deputy head of the 561 plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit. "The government has the responsibility to restore that relationship."

Abe announced July 9 that the central government would not appeal the June 28 ruling in the Kumamoto District Court that ordered the state to pay a total of 376.75 million yen ($3.5 million) in compensation.

But lawyers and plaintiffs said there was more the government had to do.

Yasuyuki Tokuda, one of the lawyers for the group, said, "Prime Minister Abe must meet directly with the family members and plaintiffs to hear what they have to say and apologize to each and every one of them as the representative of the state."

Another plaintiff, Nobuko Harada, 75, said she wanted to meet with Abe and tell him about the struggle she faced after her father was diagnosed with Hansen's disease. She said that she and her mother faced severe discrimination after her father was placed in a sanatorium in Aomori Prefecture.

Hwang, who is 63 and now resides in Hyogo Prefecture, was born in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. By the time he reached the age of 2, his parents and two older sisters had all been placed in a sanatorium in Okayama Prefecture, effectively making him an orphan.

Hwang was later told by his father that when the family was being separated, his mother cried out, "I will not let him go."

When Hwang was 8, the family was reunited under one roof, but he found it hard to be reconciled with family members who had become strangers. His father and mother committed suicide in 2003 and 2011, respectively.

"We were never able to construct a relationship that could truly be called one of parent and child," he said.

Hwang was tormented by keeping what had happened to his parents and sisters a secret from even his closest friends.

Many of the 561 plaintiffs joined the lawsuit on condition of anonymity due to continuing fears of prejudice and discrimination.

Hwang was one of the few plaintiffs to go public. He explained he did so because he wanted to reach out to society so people would understand the suffering his family endured.

At gatherings of plaintiffs and their supporters, Hwang often sang his own composition titled "Omoiyo Todoke!" (Our thoughts, pass it on).

Prior to the news conference plaintiffs held on July 9, Hwang sang the song with guitar in hand.

He said, "Today, our thoughts have been passed on."

(This article was compiled from reports by Yuta Ichijo, Sokichi Kuroda, Kayoko Sekiguchi and Ryuichi Kitano, a senior staff writer.)