Kim Bok-Dong, a vocal “comfort woman” who gained international fame for her human rights activism and for raising awareness on sex slavery issues, has passed away at the age of 92.
The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance announced that Kim, who was born in Yangsan, Gyeongnam, South Korea in March 1926, died in the hospital on January 28, Monday, while battling colorectal cancer.
Kim’s testimony during the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee in 1993 had “brought light to the hidden history” and gave other victims “courage to face the truth,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in his Facebook post according to South China Morning Post.
“We will never forget to set [distorted] history right,” Moon said in the post, and continued to praise Kim for refusing to be portrayed as a victim but instead, “pushing for an apology over imperial Japan’s atrocities and legal compensations.”
Yoong Mee-Hyang, the leader of an advocate group for the women, said that Kim expressed anger against the Japanese government until her last breath.
“She suddenly opened her eyes yesterday and told a long story … I couldn’t decipher everything but one thing I could hear clearly was that we had to fight until the end,” she told Reuters.
“Then she expressed strong anger towards Japan as she continued talking, before she regained her tranquillity.”
Kim was forced into sex slavery under the Japanese imperial army at the early age of 14. She was sent into military brothels where she was forced to provide sexual service for Japanese soldiers stationed in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Kim first spoke about her tragic past in 1992, just a year after Kim Hak-soon first stepped forward to tell her story about the sexual slavery issues under the Japanese rule during World War II. Since then, Kim traveled all over the world including the United States, Europe, and Japan to share her story and to campaign on behalf of all the victims of sexual assault in affected areas.
“I am very much aware of their agonising pain … I want to help these women in many parts of the world who have been sexually violated,” Kim said in 2012.
Last year, YouTube channel Asian Boss released what could be Kim’s final interview. They have updated the description of video with the following:
“Madame Kim passed away on January 28, 2019, making this interview possibly the last sit-down interview of her 92 years on earth. Though she dedicated her life to the cause of helping wartime rape victims, she never received an official apology from the Japanese government. Her story will live on through her fighting spirit.”
Kim’s funeral is set to take place on Friday as well as the traditional farewell road ceremony that is planned near the Japanese embassy.
Images screenshot via YouTube / Suna Lim