SEOUL--Researchers from Japan and South Korea have agreed to start joint research on the possible hereditary effects of radiation exposure on the offspring of South Koreans who survived the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It will be the first survey in South Korea on the hereditary effects of atomic bombings, although similar studies have been undertaken in Japan by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, a cooperative Japan-U.S. research organization.
The agreement was reached among Japanese and South Koreans who attended a memorial service for the victims of the atomic bombings that was held Aug. 6 in the southern county of Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do province, where many atomic bomb survivors live.
The scientists plan to start taking blood samples later this year from about 100 families, including atomic bomb survivors and their offspring, to analyze their genes.
The South Korean participants of the program include geneticists and members of an association of physicians against nuclear weapons. Their Japanese counterparts include Taisei Nomura, professor emeritus of fundamental radiology at Osaka University who has surveyed areas affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.
In South Korea, the government interviewed atomic bomb survivors and their offspring in 2004 at the request of the offspring and other parties. The survey found that both the survivors and their children had high morbidity rates for heart and thyroid diseases and other illnesses.
Survivors' offspring are not eligible in Japan for the Atomic Bomb Survivors' Assistance Law, but in South Korea, the government of Gyeongsangnam-do province passed an ordinance in December to provide assistance to second- and third-generation survivors, including health checkups and medical counseling.
The province is home to one-third of all atomic bomb survivors in the country.
Concerned parties are hoping to use the coming survey as a catalyst for enacting national legislation to provide medical assistance to survivors' offspring.
The move may affect the course of discussions in Japan, where associations of survivors' offspring are demanding eligibility for the Survivors' Assistance Law.
According to the Korean Red Cross, there were 2,662 registered atomic bomb survivors in South Korea as of the end of July. But no information is available on the number of their children either in South Korea or in Japan.
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