Korean victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may soon be able to claim healthcare benefits from Japanese legations in Korea.
Japan's Asahi Shimbun daily reported Sunday that Tokyo decided to allow its legations abroad to accept applications for healthcare benefits from nuclear bomb victims living overseas who cannot come to Japan due to old age or illness.
The system is first expected to be applied in Korea, home to many victims imperial Japan drafted into forced labor in the two cities, where they fell victim to the bomb at the end of World War II.
The Asahi said the plan, which Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is to unveil at a Korea-Japan summit slated for late June, was to help ease tensions in the relationship between the neighbors caused by Japanese claims to Korea's Dokdo islets. It said Japan told Korea it was considering the step when their foreign ministers met on April 7.
At present even certified atomic bomb victims with health cards have to go to Japan and apply to a regional government there for healthcare benefits of some 34,000 yen a month.
The fresh plan does not eliminate all inconvenience as it will still require victims to go to Japan for new health cards. The Asahi said the Japanese Foreign Ministry could also send Japanese doctors to overseas legations to examine victims of the atomic bombings.
Japan estimates that there are about 4,500 victims of the atomic bombs living outside Japan, primarily in Korea and China. It estimates that 3,500 of them had health cards to claim benefits as of December.