A prominet former Korean comfort woman, Kim Bok Dong, has died recently, highligting unresolved issues about past atrocities committed by the Japanese military.
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Kim Bok Dong was abducted from her home in Korea by Japanese soldiers in 1940 when she was 14. She was sent to military brothels in Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. And in 1992, she became only the second so-called comfort woman to speak out about her horrific wartime experiences. And she was very critical of what she said was Japan's refusal to apologise sincerely to former sex slaves or to compensate them adequately for their suffering. Kim Bok Dong died yesterday at the age of 93 after decades of campaigning.
To find out more about her, Dan Damon spoke to Dr. Caroline Norma, an academic at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia who's written a book on the tens of thousands of former comfort women who were enslaved by the Japanese military.
Kim Bok Dong was and is a living hero. She came out registered as a survivor in South Korea very early on in 1992. And ever since she registered in January, every week she participated in, for example, the protest that's held outside of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. She did that after having experienced as a child, at age 14, being detained and taken away by a contracted Japanese civilian of the military in cahoots with her local village chief, which is not an unusual story.
She was born in 1925 and then was trafficked from the South Korean port of Busan across to Shimonoseki in Japan and in through Taiwan into a brothel in Guangdong in southern China.
There was an agreement between the last president in South Korea, Park Geun Hye, and the Japanese government to produce compensation of nine million dollars. But the administration now of Moon Jae-in, the new president, has rejected that. Why?
It was an agreement concluded between high level government officials, the foreign ministers of both Japan and South Korea, without consulting survivors or even the representative organizations of survivors.
And the primary problem with it was that it came with a gag clause for Korean government and public officials, diplomatic officials, mentioning the topic of the military sexual slavery during the China and Pacific Wars in public fora.
So very quickly after the deal was signed between the two governments, a couple of incidents occurred over the early months of 2016 where the issue was raised in various fora by South Korean officials. And that brought condemnation from the Japanese side over and over on the basis of, "We have signed this deal with you and giving you money, and therefore you are now gagged. Why you going back on the agreement?" So the agreement from its very signing was used as a battering ram and a bludgeon against South Koreans and was never accepted by survivors or their organizations. It was sort of a dead duck before it even started.