Former sex slave regains her Korean citizenshipOctober 6, 1997
Lee Nam-i was a sweet 18, a flower yet to bloom, when she was taken as a sex slave, or “comfort woman,” by the Japanese colonial government in 1943.
Born in Jindong, South Gyeongsang province, Ms. Lee was forced to leave her country in a ship headed to Japanese Army camps in Cambodia. Thus started Ms. Lee’s tragedy. She lost everything ― her dignity as a human being, her name, her mother tongue and her identity.
After the war ended in 1945, Ms. Lee stayed in Cambodia. When the Japanese soldier with whom she lived left for Japan, she was left with nothing. She decided to marry a Cambodian and had a family. She eventually took a Cambodian name and used Khmer, the language spoken in Cambodia, instead of speaking Korean.
Her life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, was never easy. She suffered from poverty but could never dream of asking Japan for compensation. She lost her son when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge swept to power, killing millions of Cambodians in the process and aftermath.
It was only in 1997 that South Korea became aware of her existence, after newspapers reported stories about Grandma Hun in Southeast Asia. She became a symbol of Korean sex slave victims and came home the same year. She was given her nationality back on this date.
After a few years in South Gyeongsang province, however, Grandma Hun became homesick for Cambodia, her home for more than five decades. She returned to Phnom Penh, where she died in 2001 at the age of 76.
October 7, 1979
Former President Park Chung Hee had a reputation for many things, one being that he never had any mercy for traitors. Such a reputation is what makes the disappearance of Kim Hyeong-uk so suspicious.
Around 7 p.m. on this date in Paris, Kim Hyeong-uk stepped out of a casino and was never seen again. After first checking into the glitzy Ritz-Carlton, Mr. Kim then moved to a hotel called Westend, before stopping by the casino with a companion only identified as a tall Asian man.
Mr. Kim, then 54, was a second-to-none loyalist to then-President Park, as the head of the Agency for National Security Planning for over six years. His faithfulness was extraordinary, thus earning him the nickname “a wild boar.”
Back in President Park’s military regime in the 1970s, the highest position a civilian could occupy was the head of this agency. One day, however, Mr. Kim found himself deprived of absolute power. Out of the blue, he was demoted from his position down to a seat in the National Assembly.
Mr. Kim then made a radical turn. He deserted everything he had in Korea and left for the United States in 1973. He said the regime was ruining Korea and dubbed himself a democracy fighter.
Then he appeared at a hearing at the U.S. House of the Representatives on June 22, 1977, to speak out against the Park regime. He blamed it for abducting democracy activist Kim Dae-jung, something the regime had long denied. His testimony dealt with an array of issues sensitive to the Park regime.
He didn’t stop there. Mr. Kim announced his plan to write a memoir, whose contents would be certain to anger President Park.
Mr. Park never returned from his trip to Paris and he never finished his book. His whereabouts after all these years still remain in mystery, which has led to all kinds of rumors. Some say President Park took revenge by sending secret agents to Paris to get rid of Mr. Kim.
Theories abound as to the way Mr. Kim was killed. Some say Mr. Kim was killed in Paris and then the body was dumped in the Seine River. Others say that President Park’s devoted retainer, Cha Ji-cheol, arranged for Mr. Kim to come to Seoul in an airplane’s cargo area. Other rumors had Mr. Cha putting Mr. Kim in a car and putting the car in a compressor.
The truth, however, is still unknown. Only 19 days after Mr. Kim was reported missing in Paris, President Park met his own doom, assassinated by a once-faithful subordinate.
Last month, the ruling Uri Party said the disappearance of Mr. Kim is an issue that needs resolving.
by Chun Su-jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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