News Release| Department of History; Cal State L.A.

July 13, 2012

Korean ‘Comfort Woman’ Bok-dong Kim to discuss the dark years she spent as a sex slave for Japanese soldiers during World War II 

Los Angeles, CA Bok-dong Kim was among approximately 200,000 so-called Korean “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II. Now an activist seeking an apology and retribution from Japan for what they endured, she will share those struggles from her past, and her current fight, at Cal State L.A. on Thursday, July 26, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., in the Music Hall

Picture of Bok-dong Kim.

After Kim discusses the slavery and abuse that occurred during those dark years, a short talk will be provided by the director of “The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan,” which will be followed by a Q&A session. The council was established in 1990 to resolve the issue of what happened to the Korean women during the war, and recover human rights and dignity for the victims. 

Like other Korean women who suffered at the hands of their captures more than 60 years ago, Kim is among those still alive who want compensation for the abuse.

 “I was born as a woman, but have never had a woman’s life. I was dragged to the foreign army’s battles, and my entire life was ruined. When I started, the Japanese military would often beat me because I wasn’t submissive,” said Kim, as reported by CNN in March during a weekly protest that has been held outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul for the past 20 years.

 It was in 1941—at the age of 15—when Kim was first sent to serve as a sexual slave in “comfort stations” in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

 Kim continued, “Every Sunday, soldiers came to the brothel from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., and on Saturday from noon until 5 p.m., plus weekdays. It was very hard to handle. I couldn’t stand at the end of the weekend. Since I had to deal with too many soldiers, I was physically broken.”

 Kim, who was born in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do Province, South Korea, in 1926, believes her inability to have children is the result of the sexual abuse.  

After several years of slavery, Kim was captured in 1945 by the U.S. military and became a prisoner of war. She returned to Korea a year later at the age of 20, and didn’t report her ordeal until 1992, the year she began her weekly protests in front of the Japanese embassy.

 In 1993, Kim attended and testified at the “World Human Rights Conference” in Vienna, Austria, and has since testified during other events in Japan and the United States.

 Last year, Kim proposed building a “Peace Monument” in front of the embassy in Seoul. This year, she founded the “Butterfly Fund,” which helps victims of ongoing sexual violence in Congo and Uganda.   

The issue of comfort women continues to create friction between Korea and Japan.

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