Lee Jong-keun

"Don’t stay silent!"--Raise your voice!

8.What I think now

Now that I am 93 years old, I feel that my physical strength and memory are declining day by day.  Although I tell my story, nothing has changed about the danger of nuclear weapons.  Although many survivors have appealed against nuclear weapons, they have never been eliminated.  I feel a bit skeptical about the abolition of nuclear weapons now.  I don’t even expect others to sympathize with my experience.  In January, 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into effect with ratification by more than 50 countries. But none of the nuclear powers participated in the treaty.  How many nuclear weapons in the world today will be eliminated in the future?  No other weapon is as inhumane as a nuclear weapon.  It is never permissible for such weapons to be dropped on humans.  I can’t help feeling discouraged.

However, I want to tell my story as long as my physical strength allows.  As the T-shirt I was given in France says, it is important to keep speaking out.  I also have great hope because young people are learning about our experiences and are conveying them as A-bomb Memory Keepers. 

Whenever I have an opportunity to talk to children, I have two things to tell them at the end of my speech.  One is, “Even if you forget the kindness you do to others, you should never forget the kindness you receive from others.”  For months after the A-bombing, pus oozed constantly from the scars of my burns, and maggots came out from them.  Even if I applied mercurochrome to the scars, they didn’t heal.  My mother felt sorry for me and even felt it would be better for me to die than to suffer from such terrible pain.  At that time, an old Japanese woman we knew brought me some rapeseed oil.  Thanks to the oil, the scars of the burns that I had suffered for a long time recovered.  I still regret why I didn’t ask her name and address.  I wish I could visit her grave and thank her, offering flowers to her memory.

And the other thing I tell children is, “Your grandfather and great-grandfather might have gone to war and killed a lot of people.  When you grow up, don’t be the kind of person who will support war.”  Young people have no responsibility for the past, but they are responsible for creating the future.