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Accidental ActivistsVictim Movements and Government Accountability in Japan and South Korea$
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Celeste L. Arrington

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780801453762

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801453762.001.0001

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The Politics of Hepatitis C–Tainted Blood Products

The Politics of Hepatitis C–Tainted Blood Products

(p.109) 4 The Politics of Hepatitis C–Tainted Blood Products
Accidental Activists

Celeste L. Arrington

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines hepatitis C virus (HCV) movements in Japan and Korea, initiated by victims who became infected after receiving contaminated blood products. Despite their parallel claims and contemporaneity, Japanese and Korean HCV movements’ quests for redress yielded different outcomes, highlighting the downsides of gaining an elite ally early on. Japan’s HCV plaintiffs struggled for nearly four years to gain national attention and sympathy from legislators, while Korea’s HCV movement gained support from a lawmaker within a year of filing suit. As a result, the Japanese HCV movement elicited more redress. In late 2007 and early 2008, it used several partially favorable court rulings, national media coverage, and public indignation to gain politicians’ support and wring concessions from the government. Redress measures included an apology, an official inquiry, medical subsidies and financial assistance from the state and the manufacturers, and measures to include victims in future policy decisions related to hepatitis. In Korea, legislative efforts to achieve even independent oversight of the nation’s blood supply—let alone compensation—have failed. Although a high court found the defendants liable for thirteen of the plaintiffs’ HCV infections in February 2013, none has received redress because the case was appealed to the Supreme Court.

Keywords:   hepatitis C infection, hepatitis C virus, Japan, Korea, contaminated blood, victims, redress, political allies

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