News about Minamata Disease

The Mainichi Daily News published an article in English about the important political agreement that was made yesterday between Japan's LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) and Democratic Party regarding Minamata disease. The English article is largely a translation of a Japanese article. In this post, will quote from the two articles to made a bilingual outline of some of the key issues.


Here are the titles and addresses of the two articles from which I am quoting:
1. 分社化 (Dividing Chisso into two companies)
On Thursday, the parties also agreed to let chemical maker Chisso Corp., which caused poisoning by releasing methyl mercury-tainted water into the sea from a factory in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, split into a parent company and a subsidiary. Sales of shares in the subsidiary will go toward future compensation for victims, and the parent company will later be liquidated.

Chisso, which is covering lump-sum payments under the latest compensation measures had requested permission to split up, saying that it wanted to move away from the Minamata disease issue, targeting freer corporate activities. However, sufferers groups are against the idea of the parent company disappearing in the future. The DPJ had opposed splitting up the company, but gave its consent on condition that the split would not be carried out until Chisso agreed to pay lump compensation sums.

2. 認定基準 (Criteria for certification as a Minamata disease patient)
Under the legislation, conditions covered by relief measures have been expanded to include sensory impairment of the distal parts of limbs, in which numbness becomes more pronounced near the tips of fingers and toes; a condition affecting sensation on the tongue; sensory impairment around the mouth; and tunnel vision. A fifth condition that the DPJ suggested including -- intellectual impairment caused by cerebral disorders -- was dropped.

3. 問題の規模と最高裁の判決 (Scope of the problem and the Supreme Court Decision)
Lump sums of 2.6 million yen per person were paid to over 10,000 people in a government settlement in 1995, but in a ruling in 2004 the Supreme Court applied standards that recognized ailments caused by the disease to a level beyond government standards. There are believed to be 30,000 people seeking compensation who have not yet been recognized as Minamata disease sufferers. Based on a survey in 2007, the government expected more than 80 percent of patients to receive relief measures.


Minamata disease is a disease that appeared when people ate fish and other seafood contaminated with methyl mercury. The first case was confirmed in 1956. As of March this year 2,965 people had officially been recognized as sufferers.

There was another issue regarding removal of the designation of certain areas as regions affected by Minamata disease. The removal of this designation would have made new applications for certifications impossible. Strong opposition from the Democratic Party and groups of Minamata disease suffers and their supporters led the LDP to eliminate this from the bill.


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