JAPANESE

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From Asahi Shimbun

Japanese version

Notes from Nagasaki
A-bomb Victims in South Korea
Jeong Tae-Hong (male, born 1931)
By Sei Ito (male, born 1971)

photo Jeong Tae-Hong

In December 2008, I visited the Korea Atomic Bomb Victim Association, and met about 30 Korean A-bomb victims. Of them, Jeong Tae-Hong was the only one who was exposed to the bomb in Nagasaki.

He returned to Korea in 1946, a year after the bomb hit. He only learned about the Atomic Bomb Survivor's Certificate in 1995, more than half a century later. He read an article about the Korea Atomic Bomb Victim Association, and tracked down its address. Coincidentally, a man who lived next door happened to be a victim of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima. He told Jeong about the Association and advised him he should apply for an Atomic Bomb Survivor's Certificate. Jeong then met Mr. Nobuhito Hirano from Nagasaki, who was surveying and offering support to Korean victims of the A-bomb that hit Nagasaki.

Of seven family members, his eldest brother who was eight at the time died of unknown causes in 1948. In 1953 his father passed away, and a year later his mother. Her hair fell out and when it rained she used to complain that her whole body hurt. She also couldn't sleep at night. His father was also in poor health, but because of their poor economic situation, he could not afford to go to the hospital. Nevertheless, he would say, "I wasn't the only one who was exposed to the A-bomb," and so he never complained about it.

* * *

Jeong was born in Nagasaki. His father, San-Do, was a fish broker at that time.

Jeong grew up in a row house in Inasa (present-day Bentencho Benten-machi area). He called himself "Yasuhiro Ota" in Japanese, and spoke Japanese at home. He went to Inasa National Elementary School (present-day Nagasaki Municipal Elementary School). They were the only Korean family, but he said he was never picked on for it.

After graduation, he failed the entrance exam for former Keiho Middle School, and spent a year preparing to get into Chinzeigakuin Middle School (present-day Chinzei Gakuin High School), located near Kasui Kwassui Middle and High Schools (in Takarae-cho, Hoei-machi Nagasaki).

On August 9, 1945, because air raid alerts had been issued, he didn't go to school and was at home, two kilometers [1.2 miles] away from the hypocenter. He heard the whir of the B-29s when he was playing at sumo wrestling with his elder brother. Going out to the garden, he saw it shining white in the intense sunlight. A white parachute dropped from the plane. He didn't feel in any danger, but just thought that something had dropped, and so headed back inside. As he did so, there was a flash of light from the kitchen window, and an orange light came bearing down on him. The next moment he was blown off his feet by the blast. He hit his left elbow on a pillar in the house, and suffered a seven- to eight-centimeter [2.5- to 3-inch] cut.

The second floor of the family home had collapsed. His parents had been busy bringing lumber drying on the roof downstairs and suffered serious burns to their faces and hands. At night they evacuated to a large air raid shelter near the international cemetery in Inasa. The whole city was in flames. It seemed very odd to him that the whole city could be burning from a single bomb.

Two or three days later, Jeong, his parents, his elder brother and his wife, and his two younger brothers, all seven of them, escaped to the mountains about two hours' walk north. He saw many coal-black dead bodies. But he didn't feel any pity. He said only someone who has experienced the same situation can understand. He still remembers how the rails of the streetcar were bent upward along the way.