South Korean ‘Comfort Women’ Activist Dies at 93

1/31/2019

Kim Bok-dong, who died on Monday at a hospital in Seoul, spent years demanding justice for Japan's wartime sexual violence against women. She was a fixture at weekly protests outside the Japanese embassy calling for a sincere apology and compensation.

Kim was among the two-dozen known surviving South Korean "comfort women," a Japanese euphemism for women who were forced into prostitution and sexually abused at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II. She was 14 when she was first sent to a military brothel and forced to engage in sex for Japanese soldiers across East Asia.

In 2012, Kim and another former comfort woman, Gil Won-ok, established the Butterfly Fund to help victims of sexual violence in armed conflicts around the world. National media reported Kim donated her life savings, 50 million won (U.S. $44,762), to the organization. Articulate and charismatic, she was a vocal critic of a 2015 deal in which Tokyo apologized to the victims and provided $9.1 million to a fund in Seoul to help them. Kim said it was not sincere because some Japanese leaders continued to deny the women were forced to work in brothels.

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