S Korean Activists Marched At Japan’s Embassy With Kim Bok-dong’s Coffin

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South Korean activists marched along with the coffin of Kim Bok-dong, one of the last survivors of comfort women, to the Japanese embassy on Friday, February 1, to protest against Japan’s sex slavery before and during World War II.

Kim Bok-dong, a human rights activist and a comfort woman survivor who experienced forced labor into Japanese-military manned brothels died on Monday at the age of 92. Her stories and personal testimonies led the formation of different active groups urging apologies and compensation from Japanese government. Kim traveled across the globe, including Los Angeles to advocate for the construction of peace monument devoted for comfort women.  She was one of the first comfort women who is not ashamed to speak out and appeared personally at the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 to testify and defend their rights. Until then, she became a constant figure on weekly protest outside Japanese embassy in Korea.

A mortuary vehicle carried the casket of Kim towards the embassy as part of the protest, while campaigners were chanting for apologies and compensation from Japan. They were also accompanied by mourners who carried banners thanking Kim for her unwavering devotion to the cause, and some held signs of yellow butterflies as a symbol of freedom for suffering women.

Meanwhile, in Glendale California, flowers were decorated on a statue dedicated for comfort women, as a commemoration for Kims death. She visited Glendale in 2012 and 2013 then helped in the formation of the said monument. A statement from Korean American Forum of California (KAFC), a comfort woman advocacy group, said Kim will be remembered for her determination to inform younger generations about the atrocities so the same thing will not happen to them. The group expressed deep sympathies and promised to continue Kims advocacy and will bring justice for victims of sex slavery during her time.

Kim died in the hospital after battling cancer and even on her last breath, she urged her advocacy group to never stop asking for a sincere apology from Japan. Kim started to serve in the brothels as early as 14. From then on, she was forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in China, Hongkong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. According to research by professors from Vassar College and Shanghai Normal University, Kim together with an estimated 200,000 women from other Asian countries served five to 60 soldiers a day.

For almost seven decades now, sexual slavery and discussion on comfort women have been a controversial issue not only in Korea but also in neighboring countries. Japan reiterated that they already apologized for the atrocities and it is strong on its stand that no women were forced to sex labor. Advocates firmly believe that the Japanese government has long denied justice for comfort women but the adversary claimed there were no evidences or proofs of sex slavery during the war other than testimonies of the comfort women. But isnt the mere presence of Kim be the living proof and history that Japan is asking?

Today, only 23 South Koreans survivors were listed being alive. The advocacy groups said that even if numbers of ‘comfort women survivors diminish, they will continue the call for justice until Japan government apologizes sincerely. With Kims death, her good deeds and contributions on empowering women will live until the end.

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