Photo/IllutrationSim Jin-tae, the Korean Hibakusha Association’s Hapcheon branch chief, explains what he experienced at Fukuoka Airport, holding his passport and hibakusha certificate he brought to Japan to attend Mass by Pope Francis. The picture was taken on Nov. 30 in Hapcheon, South Korea. (Hajimu Takeda)

HAPCHEON, South Korea--South Korean survivors of the atomic bomb who were invited to attend Mass by Pope Francis in Nagasaki last month want an explanation for a five-hour delay they faced at Fukuoka Airport.

The survivors and their supporters will send a written request on Dec. 3 to the South Korean government to conduct hearings on their handling at immigration control at the facility.

According to the Korean Hibakusha Association, a group of 11 people, including three survivors, arrived at the airport from Seoul on the morning of Nov. 23 to attend Mass scheduled the next day.

When they reached immigration, they were led to a room and had to wait about five hours, being told that the purpose was to question them on their intentions in Japan and inspect their belongings.

The group carried letters to Francis describing the suffering of survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while they were there under colonial rule.

While the group was able to attend Mass, there are concerns that the delay may have been due to the nature of their visit.

Lawyer Tomikazu Goto, who went to the airport after hearing from the association, said, "It's not surprising that there are some suspicions that immigration control may have been apprehensive about hibakusha conveying their message to Francis."

Speaking to The Asahi Shimbun, a Fukuoka Immigration Bureau official said, “Everything was done in accordance with the law, and no time was taken unnecessarily."

Sim Jin-tae, 76, the association’s Hapcheon branch chief who led the group, said, “I had been treated well by many Japanese people before, so I was disappointed by the delay."

The association was established in 1967 by South Korean hibakusha exposed to radiation from the bombings to call on support from the Japanese and South Korean governments.

The association also sent a group when then U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in May 2016 and tried to pass on letters demanding an apology and compensation from the U.S. government.