Thursday, October 12, 2006

Harimoto, ethnic Korean who knows what atomic bomb was like, talks about North Korea

"A young fellow who looked about 20 was saying, 'The war has nothing to do with me.' Nothing to do with him! This country is rich today because of what we suffered in the war. My generation is the last one that can tell people what the atomic bombing was like. I could no longer be silent. I felt I had to tell it as it was."

He was five. His home in Danbara Shinmachi -- today, Hiroshima's Minami Ward -- was 2 km east of ground zero. He remembers a flash of light, like a floodlight. His 11-year-old sister had been mobilized for war work. When next he saw her, her soft fair skin had been burned red all over her body. She trembled convulsively. What could he do for her? Nothing. He tried to feed her blackened grapes, squeezing the juice into her mouth. She died a few days later.

Isao Harimoto in his baseball heyday, playing for the Yomiuri Giants in 1978. (Mainichi)

Ten years passed. Harimoto left Hiroshima to enter a school known for its baseball program. He turned pro. He never spoke about the atomic bomb. "Nobody asked me about it," he says, "and I didn't think there was any need for me to bring up the subject. I was totally focused on baseball. I put my memories in a bottle, so to speak, and I sealed it."

North Korea's announcement of a nuclear bomb test brought the nightmare of Aug. 6, 1945 vividly back to life for Harimoto. That evening, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Seoul for summit talks with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, announced, "Discussion of tough measures is to begin immediately."

Harimoto understands, but the prospect does not please him. "Don't our leaders realize," he said sadly, "that international isolation makes ordinary people suffer? How can I not feel sorry for them? They are my compatriots."

The fact that Harimoto is a second-generation ethnic Korean complicates his feelings.

The nuclear test is one thing; the thought of the starving North Korean people is something else, reminding him of his own suffering as a child during the war.

He was three when his father returned to South Korea for a visit. The Korean War broke out, and the elder Harimoto was trapped. He fell ill and died before he could get back to Japan.

Harimoto's mother carried on as best she could, supporting the family by selling horumon -- broiled pig innards -- from a street stall.

"If only the atom bomb attack had never happened," the young Harimoto would muse.

Plunging into baseball, he kept his thoughts and his dreadful memories to himself.

"I hate August 6," he says now. "I wish the law could wipe out the sixth of August altogether, send us from August 5 straight to August 7."October 12, 2006mainichi

I understand how he feels.
But situation is that it is impossible for other countries to ignore what North Korea has done without sanctions. I just hope the situation will going for the better as soon as possible so that people suffering out there will be saved as Harimoto prays.

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