During a visit to a welfare center for atomic bomb survivors in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, Hatoyama consoled the Korean survivors, in a first for a former Japanese prime minister. He also paid his respects at a memorial altar for atomic bomb victims.
“Hello, I am Yukio Hatoyama,” the former prime minister said in Korean, before switching to Japanese to deliver his apology.
“I am here to express my apology to all of you who were victimized under the colonial rule and the atomic bombing,” he said. “As a person who served as a prime minister in Japan, I think the Japanese government is responsible for proper compensations and aid. I am very sorry about that.”
About 600 of 2,000 Korean atomic bomb survivors live in the farming village of Hapcheon, the largest community of survivors in the country.
Acknowledging the difficulties their children would have faced, Hatoyama said he would make more effort to help the victims.
“During my term in office, we had a proposal to support the Korean atomic bomb victims, but it was not realized as my tenure ended shortly,” he said.
Hatoyama was prime minister from September 2009 to June 2010. He was visiting Korea to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Pusan National University. He went to the UN Memorial Cemetery in Busan to lay flowers on Tuesday.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)