|Bok-dong Kim (R), a 90-year-old "comfort women" survivor, shares her experiences in the "comfort stations" and call for justice, with interpreter Joanne by her side, at George Washington University in Washington on June 30. [China Daily/Liu JingYang]|
"I realized that I was not the one who's guilty," Bok-dong Kim said in describing how she began decades of efforts to get justice for World War II-era "comfort women" in Asia like her.
Kim, from South Korea, was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. She registered herself as a former "comfort women" victim in 1992. Since then, she has been actively engaged in seeking reparations and an official apology from the Japanese government.
On June 30 at George Washington University in Washington, she shared her stories again "in hope that history never repeats itself".
Thousands of Japanese Imperial Army and Navy officers across the Indo-Pacific region built "comfort stations" and forced young women into sexual slavery, both before and during the war, according to the memoirs of Yasuhiro Nakasone, a Japanese lieutenant.
Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of history at Chuo University in Tokyo, told The Japan Times that there were at least 50,000 "comfort women".
"It wasn't just one or two soldiers that I had to deal with," Kim said. "Every day there were soldiers lined up. By the time the sun went down, I couldn't even stand up. My life was really harmed."
Kim spoke about her five years in the "comfort stations". She was brought with the army to China's Guangdong Province and Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
The atrocities of the Japanese soldiers left the few survivors with wounds both physical and mental. "I gave birth in a field, choked the child, and left it in the river," recalled "Grandma Cao", a Chinese "comfort woman" who appeared in the short video Kim brought to the event. "(After the "comfort station"), I could never bear children again."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has avoided an official apology on several occasions, and Kim said he still claims it was civilians instead of soldiers who trafficked the women for money.
"The Japanese government is lying, and I'm mortified by it," Kim said. "Until they offer legal reparation and an official apology, my honor cannot be recovered."
(Source: China Daily)
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