When year-old Lee Yong-soo returned home to South Korea in after years as a child sex slave for Japanese troops, her family, having given her up for dead, thought she was a ghost. She still remembers the blue and purple fabric of that dress, but other memories from those years are more traumatic. Japan says the claims have been settled by past agreements and apologies, and that the continued controversy threatens relations between the two countries. Now with only 27 registered South Korean survivors still alive, there is a sense of urgency behind efforts by the women to receive a formal apology as well as legal compensation from Japan while their voices can still be heard. Just days before Reuters interviewed Lee at her one-room apartment in the southern city of Daegu, a fellow victim had died, one of six so far in
South Korea's move to scrap WWII sex slavery fund upsets Japan
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Kim Bok-dong regularly led protests to demand Japan more fully acknowledge suffering of so-called 'comfort women'. Hundreds of mourners have gathered near the Japanese embassy in the South Korean capital, Seoul, for the funeral of a woman forced as a girl into prostitution and sexually enslaved by Japan's military in World War II. The crowd, dressed mostly in black on a bitterly cold Friday morning and holding paper cutouts of yellow butterflies, followed a hearse carrying Kim Bok-dong that stopped in front of a bronze statue of a girl representing the thousands of Asian women experts say the Japanese military forced into front-line brothels as it pursued colonial ambitions. The scene near the embassy was the culmination of an hours-long march that wrapped up five days commemorating Kim, who had regularly led rallies to demand that Japan more fully acknowledge the suffering of the so-called "comfort women", the euphemism given to the women by the Japanese and embraced by some of the dwindling numbers of victims over the term "sex slave". Japanese leaders have repeatedly offered apologies or expressions of remorse, but many of the women and their supporters want reparations from Tokyo and a fuller apology. Of the Korean women who have come forward as victims, only 23 are still alive. Kim, who died at age 92 on Monday and was suffering from cancer, had been a beloved leader of the protest movement, often sitting beside the bronze statue at weekly rallies that have been held since on a strip of pavement across from the site of the embassy.
SKoreans mourn death of wartime sex slave who fought Tokyo
Kim Bok-dong had been a vocal leader at the rallies that have been held every Wednesday in Seoul for nearly 30 years. She died on Monday at a Seoul hospital where she had been receiving treatment for cancer. She was On a street near where the Japanese Embassy used to be, protesters gathered around a bronze statue of a girl representing Korean sexual slavery victims and held a moment of silence for Kim.
According to testimonies, young women were abducted from their homes in countries under Imperial Japanese rule. In many cases, women were lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants, or opportunities for higher education; once recruited, they were incarcerated in comfort stations both inside their nations and abroad. Military correspondence of the Imperial Japanese Army shows that the aim of facilitating comfort stations was the prevention of rape crimes committed by Japanese army personnel and thus preventing the rise of hostility among people in occupied areas.