Pacific News Minute: “Comfort Woman” Kim Bok-Dong Dies at 92, Still Cursing Japanese Government

Jan 30, 2019

Credit YunHo LEE / Flickr

One of the most prominent of the so-called “Comfort Women” died in South Korea on Monday at the age of 92. Kim Bok-dong was forced to work as a sex slave for the Japanese military during the Second World War and spent the last 27 years of her life as a tireless campaigner for reparations and apologies.

Advocate Yoon Mi-hyang, who was at Kim Bok-dong’s bedside when she died on Monday, told The New York Times: “The last audible word she uttered . . . was actually a swear word that expressed her strong anger at the Japanese government.”

Kim was 14 years old when the Japanese sent her to a brothel in China. “On weekdays, I had to take 15 soldiers a day,” she said.

“On Saturdays and Sundays it was more than 50. We were treated worse than beasts.” Shame kept her quiet when she returned home after the war. 

Then, in 1991, Kim Hak-sun became the first of the so-called “Comfort Women” to speak out in public. Kim Bok-dong came forward the next year. She traveled the world to tell her story and became a fixture at the demonstrations outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul every Wednesday. Four years ago, then-President Park Geun-hye reached what was described as a “final and irreversible settlement” with the Japanese. Ms. Kim and other survivors rejected the deal as insincere.

“We won’t accept it even if Japan gives 10 billion yen,” she told a parliamentary committee, “It’s not about money. They’re still saying we went there because we wanted to.”

Another survivor died just a few hours before Kim, which leaves only 23 still alive. On a visit to Kim’s funeral home on Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in said it was heartbreaking that victims died without a resolution of the issue. Organizers said that on Friday, Kim Bok-dong’s funeral procession will pass by the Japanese Embassy.